A study in the November 2017 Pediatrics found Latino children born outside the United States scored higher on measures of economic hardship, but lower on other potentially health-harming adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
Authors of the study, "Adverse Childhood Experiences among Latino Children in Immigrant Families vs U.S.-Native Families" (published online Oct. 9), found that immigrant Latino children's rates of parental divorce, having a parent or guardian in jail, and exposure to substance abuse, mental health problems or partner violence in the household, for examples, were at least half those of native-born U.S. children.
Researchers examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health, with a sample of 12,162 Latino children. More children in immigrant families lived at or below the federal poverty level compared with children in U.S.-native families (80%, compared with 47%). Thirty percent of children in U.S.-native families reported two or more ACEs—stressful life events that may increase risk for later high-risk behavior and chronic diseases as adults—compared with only 16% of children in immigrant families.
Authors of the study said there may be unmeasured cultural factors among immigrant families that buffer Hispanic children from ACE exposure. Another possible reason behind the results they cited is that stressful childhood experiences specific to immigrant children, such as parental separation from deportation, are not included in traditional measures of ACE exposure.
Editor's note: The solicited commentary, "Immigrant Latino Children and the Limits of Questionnaires in Capturing Adverse Childhood Events," accompanies this study.