Study: Children of undocumented parents report higher anxiety levels, depressive symptoms

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Social work graduate student Hyunwoo Yoon is the co-author of a study that examines the link between depressive symptoms and having undocumented parents. The study compared children whose parents had been deported and went back to Mexico with their parents, children whose parents had been deported and children with undocumented parents that still live in the United States.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

American-born children of undocumented parents experience elevated levels of anxiety, according to a study conducted by professors from UT’s School of Social Work. If those children’s parents have been detained or deported, they were more likely to report depressive symptoms and emotional problems, the study found. 

The study compared three groups of children: one group of American-born children living in Mexico with their deported parents, one group living in the United States whose parents had been deported, and one group living in the United States with parents who were undocumented but had not been deported. Depressive symptoms and negative self-esteem were reported in all three groups.

Hyunwoo Yoon, social work graduate student and co-author of the study, said she feels the results of the study indicate more support services are needed for children of undocumented parents in all situations.

“When undocumented parents are detained, they don’t have any, as far as I know, any support to deal with their life,” Yoon said. “We need social services to provide individual counseling and things like that … to reduce their symptoms.” 

Radio-television-film freshman Miriam Diaz-Torres, who said her parents are undocumented, said she did not feel like her experience aligned with the study’s findings.

“I have gone through several types of emotions in my eight months at UT and having undocumented parents doesn’t play a negative role in my emotions,” Diaz-Torres said. “In fact, since my parents are undocumented people, it actually motivates me to strengthen my mind for the future for them.”

Steven Yen, business freshman, said though his immigrant parents were not undocumented, the immigration process still posed plenty of difficulties.

“You can’t read the signs, you can’t order food and it’s really hard to be independent because it’s hard to know what’s going on,” Yen said. “Making people aware that this kind of stuff happens, and that it’s nothing to be frowned upon, is important. A cultural change about how we think about the issue might be helpful to students struggling with the problem.”