By Christia Spears Brown, Migration Policy Institute
The past 15 years have seen a surge in research examining how and when the children of immigrants experience discrimination, and what the psychological and educational consequences are. Discrimination—simply defined as harmful actions toward others because of their ethnicity, nationality, language ability and accent, or immigration status—may take place at an institutional or individual level, and can have considerable consequences for the developmental outcomes of young children.
Experiencing discrimination can provoke stress responses similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. Children who experience discrimination from their teachers are more likely to have negative attitudes about school and lower academic motivation and performance, and are at increased risk of dropping out of high school. In fact, experiences of teacher discrimination shape children’s attitudes about their academic abilities above and beyond their past academic performance. Even when controlling for their actual performance, children who experience discrimination from teachers feel worse about their academic abilities and are less likely to feel they belong at school, when compared against students who do not experience discrimination.
This report focuses on incidents of direct discrimination, as perceived and noticed by the child—incidents with identifiable educational, psychological, physical, and social repercussions. While discrimination can be difficult to counteract, the report also presents a number of recommendations on how to prevent these negative interactions, through anti-bullying policies, communicating effectively with immigrant families, and carefully evaluating services targeting immigrant children.
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