“Impact of Family Separation on the Mental Health of Immigrant Children” – Sharon Reyes


Name: Sharon Reyes

Department: Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, UIC

Advisor: Dr. Joseph K. Hoereth, IPCE

The Zero Tolerance policy separated hundreds of families before President Trump finally halted the separation of families in June of 2018. Although families were no longer being separated, there are still children in detention centers and other detaining facilities. The exhaustion from the journey to the United States, the trauma caused by being torn away from their families, and the poor conditions and treatment within the detention facilities has caused negative psychological effects in children. Through a literature review, this research will look at the mental health of immigrant children after facing family separation, and how these mental health effects affected other behaviors. It was found that there was an increase of depression, separation anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder cases within the children. Additionally it was found that the deterioration of their mental health impacted their relationships with others, and it impacted their academic performance. Keeping families together or offering a pathway to citizenship should be translated into policy because it would remove the trauma of being separated in the first place. The federal government should also consider having certified and trained psychologists at every detention center to provide support to the children. Furthermore, these psychologists could provide additional research to show the negative, long-term consequences of family separation in immigrant children.

Keywords: Mental Health, Immigration, Children, Family Separation

Read more about Sharon's work here