Migrating Parents’ Motives and Impact on Children


The issue of immigration in the U.S. has been a topic of debate for many years. However, one aspect that often lacks proper attention from the authorities and the general public is the children of immigrants who are left in their home countries. This paper aims to evaluate the implications of leaving children in their home state while moving to the U.S. and the emotional impact of these actions.

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Annotated Bibliography

A book written by Sonia Nazario titled Enrique’s Journey portrays a boy traveling to the United States. The story is based on the issue that is explored in this paper because Enrique’s mother left Honduras to immigrate into a different country without her son (15). While the primary aim for the move was to find a job and send money for Enrique’s education, the woman never returned to Honduras, and thus her son decided to go to North Carolina to find her.

Nazario’s book is an ideal illustration of children left behind by their parents. The book serves as the basis for this paper because it displays the emotional difficulties of the child and his desire to reunite with the mother, which is the focus of this essay.

Stories similar to that described by Nazario help the issue of parental immigration gain public attention, primarily because this book is based on real-life events. However, a more scientific approach that allows one to evaluate evidence and the actual impact of such actions is necessary. Shen and Zhang studied the subjective well-being of children living in rural China whose parents moved to a city (127).

There is a significant difference in self-reported health and happiness in families where one or both parents left when compared to integral families. Moreover, Shen and Zhang report that there is a difference in the impact that depends on whether a mother or a father is migrating to a different place (128). This occurs because, in the second case, the motivation of children enhances. Therefore, this study is essential for this paper as it provides a better understanding of the variables that one should consider when evaluating the impact of parental immigration on children.

Unarguably, the absence of parents due to immigration affects the emotional state of children. Zhao et al. conducted a study examining the psychological implications of children who were left without parental support due to migration (80). The authors offer the term left-behind children (LBC) due to a large number of similar occurrences and the nature of these events. Next, Fellmeth et al. investigated many studies focusing on parental immigration to determine the impact it on the growth and development of children (2567).

This study is essential for the investigation of the problem because it accounts for a lot of factors and examines long-term implications. Fellmeth et al. concluded that even when parents immigrated for less than six months, their children had a high risk of developing nutrition issues, mental health problems, or unintentionally injuring themselves (2567). The results are based on the examination of 264,967 children, which suggests that this effect is an actual danger to children.

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The issue of parents immigrating without their children is prevalent not only in the U.S. The importance of this problem increases globally because individuals all over the world choose this path (Fellmeth et al. 2567). In most cases, this migration prevails in low-income countries where people are unable to find a job and earn a decent income. The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) argues that overall migration has become more prevalent in the recent decade because traveling has become more convenient and more accessible (“Migration and Children”).

Thus, the ability to collect information about distant counties and access to transportation means, together with the desire of improving one’s living conditions, facilitate the need to immigrate. This is especially evident in the United States because of economic prosperity and the large number of immigrants entering the country each year. A choice to leave children in the home state, however, is questionable because both positive and negative outcomes are a result of such actions.

Therefore, this paper claims that despite the initial motive of improving the financial well-being of their families, parents who leave their children to travel to the U.S. affect their children adversely. Additionally, the research suggests that a severe impact on both the psychical and emotional health of children is the result of such immigration, which requires additional attention from policymakers. However, this paper also acknowledges that the issue is an outcome of social and economic problems that affect states globally and thus cannot be resolved quickly.

Why Migrants Want to Go to the U.S.

As was previously mentioned, the primary motive of choosing to come to the United States is the economic struggles that people face in developing nations. Turkewitz and Del Real provide an example of an immigrant from Guatemala who was placed in a detention center after crossing the border. The man was well aware of the possible consequences of his illegal actions; however, he did not want to return to Guatemala because of the social conditions in his country.

Moreover, he decided to travel with one of his sons, leaving behind three other children and his wife. Turkewitz and Del Real state that despite the current policies in the U.S. becoming stricter, people choose to migrate with the hope of finding a source of income for themselves and their families. Therefore, the primary motive that guides individuals is the desire to improve their lives and those of their children. Their children, in return, want to reunite with their families, as was illustrated by Enrique’s case.

Other causes of parental and child migration include increased crime rates, which endanger individuals, and the inability to travel with children due to their age or other reasons. Similar conclusions are made by UNICEF and Fellmeth et al. that provide an understanding of migration in general (“Migration and Children”). For instance, gun violence and other crimes can lead to parents choosing to leave for the United States. In some cases, they hope that they will be able to reunite with their children afterward. The complexity of this problem suggests that there is no simple solution because poverty and crimes motivate people to immigrate, leaving their children.

Supporting Details

In most cases, parents choose to migrate because they want to earn money for their families. However, the journey of such people on their way to the U.S. is often dangerous and unpredictable. One example is Nazario’s book in which Enrique traveled through mountains and came to the U.S. without any money or legal documents allowing him to stay (56). This in itself has several implications – including lack of proper wages, no health insurance, a need to continually be alerted, and inability to return home for these parents. Thus, the journey of the parents is usually not simple, and children who decide to reunite may also experience a lot of difficulties.

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Emotional Impact, Changes, Consequences, and Surroundings

The studies presented in the Annotated Bibliography section of this paper suggest that the emotional impact of parental immigration on children is adverse. Fellmeth et al. state that in most cases, these children have issues with mental health, including depression and other disorders (2568). Lack of parental support and inability to reunite with their families is a severe stress for children. Therefore, the emotional impact is adverse in most cases, regardless of the ability to have access to resources and education that is enabled by parents working in the United States.

In essence, by migrating to the U.S., parents from developing countries can find a job that will help support their families. However, for children, the significant change in their surroundings, which is illustrated by Shen and Zheng and Zhao et al., is challenging to overcome (127; 80). The authors conclude that the emotional connection with parents is crucial for children when they are growing up.

Thus, despite the good intentions, children, in most cases, are unable to understand the implications and motives of immigration, which results in frustration and dissatisfaction because they are left with other relatives. Moreover, UNICEF argues that immigration affects people in the surroundings as well because it changes the communities in terms of workforce and composition of families (“Migration and Children”). Therefore, immigration in question has a severe impact on the emotional state of individuals due to significant changes in the environment and its consequences.

Lives Upon Accomplishing their Goals

While people migrating to the United States can find a better job and have improved life experience, one should note that in many instances, children want to reunite with their parents. UNICEF argues that “migration alters the structure of families” (“Migration and Children”). Also, the years spend apart unarguably affect the relationship between children and parents. Therefore, while the initial goal of being able to provide for the relatives is accomplished, other aspects of family life suffer because of parental absence.

This is especially evident in the study by Shen and Zhang, which provides an understanding of the fact that the lack of a mother has a significant negative effect on one’s psychological well-being (127). This dissonance between the initial goal and actual outcomes is the primary issue of parental immigration and left-behind children.

Opposing Views

One can argue that, similarly to the story described by Nazario, most immigrants want to ensure a better life for their children by traveling to the United States, finding a job, and sending money home. This can be done for a variety of reasons, including poverty, low wages, social difficulties, and other struggles that obstruct these people from living in their countries. While the argument is valid, the evidence suggests that the emotional and even physical impact on these children is adverse. Thus, the parents are left with a choice of staying with their families and living in poverty or trying to find other options.

Additionally, one can examine the journey of people who decided to take their children with them when migrating to the U.S. and the outcomes of such stories as an example of dangers that can be encountered along the way. Due to the fact that a lot of immigrants come to the United States illegally by crossing mountains or other entry points, one can suggest that taking their children would be irresponsible. This, in most cases, is real. However, the fact does not contradict the variety of psychological and physical issues that LBC encounter.

Similar to the story described in Nazario’s book, most individuals decide to come to the United States to earn money for their families. UNICEF claims that a 2004 report found that LBC benefits from migration (“Migration and Children”). It is because parents can send home money that is used to purchase food and healthcare items. However, the outcomes depend on the context, including the specifics of the country where children live and their character traits. The organization does not provide statistical data that would substantiate the claim and allow one to compare the adverse and beneficial outcomes of parents immigrating. Therefore, while there are some positive aspects of this issue, the overall impact on the children and their development is not good.

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Overall, this paper examined the issue of parents immigrating to the United States and leaving their children in their home states. The Annotated Bibliography focused on the book by Nazario that portrays a real-life story of a boy who decided to find his immigrant mother. The evidence is suggesting the adverse impact of such actions, which was explored as well, by examining studies that evaluate the well-being of children. In conclusion, while parents immigrate to be able to support their families, the variety of adverse effects that impact the development of their children suggest that this approach is not the best.

Works Cited

Fellmeth, Gracia, et al. “Health Impacts of Parental Migration on Left-Behind Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis.” The Lancet, vol. 392, no. 10164, 2018, pp. 2567-2582.

“Migration and Children.” UNICEF. Web.

Nazario, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey. Random House, 2006.

Shen, Ke, and Yuan Zhang. “The Impacts of Parental Migration on Children’s Subjective Well-Being in Rural China: A Double-Edged Sword.” Eurasian Geography and Economics, vol. 59, no.2, 2018, pp. 127-132.

Turkewitz, Julie and Jose Del Real. “Why Are Parents Bringing Their Children on Treacherous Treks to the U.S. Border?New York Times, 2018. Web.

Zhao, Chenyue, et al. “Impact of Parental Migration on Psychosocial Well-Being of Children Left Behind: A Qualitative Study in Rural China.” International Journal for Equity in Health, vol. 17, no. 1, 2018, p. 80.

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