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Immigrant Children Suffer As Much As Adults


Children of immigrants share with their parents all problems connected with adaptation to new surroundings. It is difficult for the children to cope with new social environment and lifestyle, but their relationships with parents are better than those in native families. This conclusion is drawn by the Russian psychologists from Saratov.

Political and social-economic developments within the post-soviet space have induced mass departure of Russian people from newly formed states. Children and adolescents constitute more than a quarter of all migrants.

In immigrants the acquaintance with new cultural environment is accompanied, as a rule, with a deep psychological stress - "cultural shock", which implies withdrawal symptoms connected with missing the former lifestyle, friends, and work; feeling unwanted in the new social situation; anxiety associated with facing the cultural differences; feeling undervalued because of a failure to cope with the new surrounding, etc. Like adult immigrants, children face numerous problems in the new society. However, as different from their parents, they are more patient to everything and easier adapt to the new rules of behaviour and customs. Still, it takes them a certain while to get along with new cultural traditions and reassess the system of values. Some children develop the inferiority complex, which often finds way out through aggressiveness and conflicts with the society. For a child, being and aggressive is easier than being not like the others.

Psychologists Gritsenko and Shustova worked in the Saratov area, where many Russians have moved from the Central Asia region. About 28% of all immigrants are children and adolescents before 15 years old.

The test group included 330 school children from 10 to 17 years old, one half (165 pers.) being children of Russian immigrants, and the other half (156 pers.) being children of native inhabitants (control group). The children were asked to fill in the questioner intended for estimating the degree of their happiness/unhappiness with their situation at school, relationships with friends and parents, financial state of their families, accommodation conditions, residence location, recreation possibilities, and life style.

It was found that immigrant children are less happy about life than native children of the same age. Immigrant children are less satisfied by their situation at school and accommodation conditions, but they better than native children get along with their parents. Probably, this can be explained both by family background and the need to share common problems arising from social adaptation. By other points, no statistically reliable differences between immigrant and native children were revealed.

The children were also questioned about their view of the future. Among immigrants, 63% (104 pers.) see the future as promising and favourable, and 37% foresee numerous but surmountable problems. In the control group, answers were distributed in as follows: 70.9% (117 pers.) have positive feelings about the future, 36.7% (44 pers.) expect problems, and 2.4% (4 pers.) believe that the future is unpromising.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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