Research also confirms many of the patterns of conflict that come forward while listening to the stories narrated by the students and parents, presented in here. So, for example, during reunification, children and youth often report ambivalence about leaving behind their beloved caretakers, extended families and friends and are anxious about meeting members of the biological family who have become strangers over the prolonged separation (Foner, 2009; Menjibar and Abrego, 2009) Parents often report struggles with asserting their authority and frustration that their financial and emotional sacrifices are not fully appreciated by their children (Abrego, 2009; Drebi, 2009; Foner, 2009; Menjibar & Abrego, 2009; Zhou, 2009). The clinical reports in the literature also replicate many of the difficulties encountered by the families as described in the stories: a pattern of conflict during the reunification of the family (Glassgow & Gouse-Shees, 1995; Sciarra, 1999. Children experiencing ambivalence about joining their parents (Boti &Bautista, 1999; Rousseau et al., 2009; Sciarra, 1999). Children feeling in competition for the mother’s affection with the children born in the host country (Arnold, 2006, Houdagne, 2002); and difficulties establishing intra-family relationships (Arnold, 2006; Boti and Bautista, 1999; Sewell-Coker, Hamilton-Collins &Fein, 1985). The longer the separation, the more difficult it is for adolescents to identify with parents and conform to their rules (Smith, Lalonde & Johnson, 2004). Children who were forced to leave to join the parents had an increased difficulty adjusting to their new life and increased conflict with parents ( Smith et al.2004) Complications of parental guilt were also reported, which resulted in discipline inconsistencies and overindulgence (Arnold, 1991; Burke, 1980). And a continual pattern of rejection and counter-rejection between parents and children was described in another study. (Glassgow & Gouse-Shees, 1995). Many reunified families experienced difficulties in adjustment, conflicts and tension, especially during the youngster’s adolescence. ( Rusch & Reyes,( 2013); Falicov (2002); Hondagneu et at. (2002 Crawford-Brown & Melrose, 2001; Lashley, 2000).
Other clinical studies also point to the detrimental effects on the psychological wellbeing of children and adolescent immigrants when separated from the parents. Some of these studies make a distinction between the difficulties occurring during the separation phase, when the parents have just left the children with a caretaker, and just as we have heard from the students in the stories, they experience profound sadness from feeling abandoned and may respond with despair and detachment (Artico, 2003). And then, again, during the reunification phase, when they miss those who cared for them while the parents were absent, as well as extended family and friends (Arnold, 1991; Schiarra, 1999) and, after long separations, they feel like strangers with their parents and siblings (Artico, 2003; Shapiro, 2002; Forman, 1993). Difficulties with attachment have been observed (Wilkes, 1992); children withdraw emotionally from their parents ( Mitraniet et al. (2004; Suarez-Orozco et al., 2002; Burke, 1980; and describe low self-esteem at the time of reunion (Smith, et al., 2004). Studies have reported depressive symptoms in both the children (Rutter, 1991) and the mothers (Bernard et al., 2006; Hohn, 1996). Children experience difficulties trusting others (Arnold, 2006; Artico, 2003) and a study linked those with longer separation experience with receiving psychiatric services (Morgan et al, 2007). Some of the youngsters have been described also as exhibiting externalizing symptoms such as increase anger and aggression, expressing their pain though anger in the parent-child relationship and outside the family (Burke, 1980; Dreby, 2007; Lashley, 2000; Smith, 2006; Wilkes, 1992.
Psychological symptoms precipitated or aggravated by the migration process can appear at any time –at the time of departure, later, or precipitated by a life cycle event, like a death or sickness in the family, or at the time of reunion, as observed in clinical settings; and, in any of the family members (Falicov, 1998) All of these outcomes related to the separation occur apparently in spite of the fact that the parents are using new technologies in an effort to keep in touch by sending remittances of money, or packages, phone cards, or at times e-mails or sparse visits. (Falicov, 2014, 2005)
As more opportunities are available for domestic and caretakers work for immigrant women, more women are coming alone into the USA. Many clinics see an increasing number of women who are solo immigrants who present with depression, or psychosomatic complains, but the subject of the separation is never discussed (Falicov, 2014, 2005) Many mothers and fathers have a very difficult time trying to keep the communication with their children back home because of the pain it revives is unbearable and a feeling that enduring in silence is a better way of coping than expressing their sadness, especially to their children. This is a way of coping reinforced by their culture, social norms and religious norms. (Falicov, 2014, 2005) However, to me, this seems more of a universal way of coping for people of many cultures, who have endured a lot of hardship in their lives.
In a retrospective study of serial migration and family separation/reunification in Caribbean immigrants in Toronto, Canada, the authors interviewed 48 adults: 20 males and 28 females, who were of a mean age of 26.93 years. The mean age at separation was 4.94 years and, at reunification, it was 14.43 years. 71% were left behind by the mother, 25% by both parents and 4% by the father. The authors found that the length of separation from the parents was significantly related to perceived complications in the parent-child relationship, less compliance with parents, less family cohesion and less identification with the parents as adults. Families immigrating together had less problems adjusting to new situations and better adaptation to the host country. (Smith, Lalonde and Johnson, 2004)
In this same study the factors identified as contributors to emotional and behavioral difficulties in children were: a) the children not receiving adequate preparation for the event of the separation; b) being marginalized in the new caregiver’s home; c) having multiple shifts of caregivers and d) having extended periods of not being with parents.
In 2010, a preliminary staged study, using quantitative and qualitative methods, was done in schools in Baltimore, Maryland, with a population of Latino immigrant students, their parents, teachers and counselors. In this research, the authors attempted to establish the effects of family separation and reunification on the educational success of immigrant children in the USA. They concluded that there is a negative schooling impact of parent-child’s separation: children separated from their parents during migration are more likely to be behind others their age in school and more likely to drop- out of high school. They also discovered through statistical analysis of data that more than the length of the separation, it was the age of the children at separation and reunification the factor that incremented the negative effect of the separation. Thus, there was no significant impact for children younger than 13, while for older teenagers the impact was significant, measured as school drop-out rate; although many other factors maybe influencing this age related outcome and more research needs to be done. (Gindling & Poggio, 2010) School systems with a high percentage of immigrant students have to struggle to incorporate a great number of new arrivals who come both, with or without documents, and have the added stress of having experienced a long separation from a parent and coping with its effects on reunification (Suarez-Orozco, et al., 2008) As a result of becoming increasingly aware of this largely unseen problem, some local school systems are trying to support these reunited families through short-term psycho-educational programs funded through grants.