Immigration is a frequently debated topic in American politics and media, yet little work examined children's understanding of this issue. In order to explore how children's understanding of immigration may differ based on their immigration experience, 261 elementary school‐aged children (M = 9 years; SD = 1 year, 1 month) answered open‐ended questions regarding why people move to the United States and why it should be legal or not. The sample consisted of 196 immigrants (first and second generation Latino/a immigrants) and 65 nonimmigrants (non‐Latino/a children living in America for at least three generations). Children also rated possible explanations for societal antiimmigration attitudes. As predicted, Latino/a immigrant children explained immigration as a means of attaining concrete benefits for immigrants, such as improved education or jobs. They also referenced reuniting with family members in the U.S. Nonimmigrant children focused more on immigrants seeking American freedoms, reflecting the school‐based curriculum explaining early European immigration to the U.S. Results reflect how differing experiences with immigration (direct or indirect) may influence perceptions towards immigration.
Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 2015