Children’s separation from parents, prolonged detention, threaten long-term health

Migrant children separated from their parents at the U.S. southern border and held for prolonged periods in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions will likely suffer lasting harm from their experiences, according to child development experts. Jack Shonkoff, Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a July 13, 2019 New Yorker article that children need interaction with a responsive adult for their healthy development. The disruption of that relationship, he said, triggers a massive stress reaction that affects the immune and metabolic systems and sets the stage for lifelong physical and mental health problems.

Separation from parents and prolonged detention are “two very well-studied, serious assaults” on children’s health, he said. “The magnitude of the nature of the crisis for a child’s health and well-being cannot be overstated.”

Read the New Yorker article: How the Stress of Separation and Detention Changes the Lives of Children