A growing literature documents that immigrants from various countries of origin, but Mexican-origin immigrants in particular, fare better on health and mental health outcomes when compared with their later-generation peers. This “immigrant paradox” may be attributable to acculturation (i.e., the adaptation to mainstream US culture), and its effects on a Mexican American individual’s experience of discrimination, level of acculturative stress and loss of traditional cultural values. To the extent that Mexican American mothers are negatively impacted by acculturation, they may be at higher risk for maternal depression, which may in turn compromise their parenting.

The proposed study aims to examine this conceptual model of Mexican American parenting, in which mothers’ acculturative experiences are associated with their mental health and parenting, and ultimately with the mental health functioning of their young (4 – 5 year old) children. In testing the proposed model, we advance the field by using a unique multi-generational Mexican American sample of mothers and their young children to

  1. examine simultaneously several well-known mediators in the association between immigrant/acculturative status and maternal depression to determine which contribute(s) to the immigrant paradox in MA mothers,
  2. examine the relation between maternal depression and parenting in a population that is both highly vulnerable to depression and in which maternal well-being has been understudied to date,
  3. examine longitudinal associations between parenting and several domains of child mental health to better identify effective and ineffective practices that may be targeted in parenting interventions for this large, at-risk population.

Findings from this project will inform social work practice and education using sound research on proximal and malleable parenting factors that influence the mental health trajectories of Latino youth. Progress in serving Latino families has been impeded by a lack of understanding of the unique risk and protective factors-as they manifest across generations-that impact Latina mothers and in turn, their children. The proposed study addresses this gap through a comprehensive study of parenting, its predictors and its outcomes, in three generations of Mexican-origin families of young children. Beyond its contribution to the social work literature (through presentations and peer-reviewed publications), this project will also contribute to the research and clinical training of social work students, including Spanish-speaking students.