Children of illegal migrant workers: Life circumstances and mental health

Yael Meir, Michelle Slone, Iris Lavi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing population of children of illegal migrant workers has produced public debate worldwide. Obliged to conceal themselves in the host country, little is known about these children's developmental and psychological characteristics which have been strikingly understudied. Recognizing this need, a study collecting data about this population in Israel is presented. Israel's migrant worker policy has led to a sizable population of children without legal status. Exposure to negative life events and mental health indicators were compared for three groups of children (. N=. 68) born in Israel, living in South Tel Aviv, children of illegal migrants from Africa and the Philippines and a control group of legal immigrants' children from Bukhara. Findings showed significant group differences on ethnic identity and traumatic life events exposure. No differences emerged on emotional and behavioral difficulties. A direct relation was found between high life events impact and self-perception of emotional, behavioral and social difficulties. Only for the Bukhari group, child-report of low or high negative life events impact was directly related to teacher-report of children's behavioral difficulties. Accumulation of empirical data about this hidden population is crucial for international decisions regarding their status, rights and care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1546-1552
Number of pages7
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a grant from the Israeli Ministry of Science and Technology .


  • Behavioral difficulties
  • Development
  • Illegal migrant workers children
  • Life events
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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