“You Will Never See Your Child Again:” The Persistent Psychological Effects of Family Separation

Physicians for Human Rights
Date of Publication: 
February, 2020
Source Organization: 

This is a study of the psychological and physiological effects of family separation on 17 adults and nine children who had been separated for an average of 60-69 days under the Trump administration's "Zero Tolerance" Policy. All participants in the study had fled traumatic experiences in their home countries before arriving at the United States. Believing their children would be safe when arriving in the US, parents were instead separated forcibly, and often secretly, from their children with no explanation from immigration authorities. PHR described symptoms and behaviors consistent with trauma and its effects in every study participant. Past traumas compounded those experienced during family separation, and every study participant met diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health condition, e.g. PTSD, depression, or anxiety. The cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment towards these families rises to the level of torture according to the PHR experts. Because of the "significant distress" and ongoing functional impairment caused by these traumas, the physicians recommend further intervention and ongoing therapeutic support. PHR also recommends: providing redress to the victims of torture, reuniting those families that were separated, including in cases where the parents have been deported, and prosecution of US officials who broke the law throughout this process. (Julianne P. Weis, Ph.D.)

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Physicians for Human Rights. (2020, February).  “You Will Never See Your Child Again:” The Persistent Psychological Effects of Family Separation. https://phr.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/PHR-Report-2020-Family-Separation-Executive-Summary.pdf