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Central American Immigrant Mothers' Mental Health in the Context of Illegality

Structural Stress, Parental Concern, and Trauma

Letiecq, Bethany L. PhD; Mehta, Swati MS; Vesely, Colleen K. PhD; Goodman, Rachael D. PhD; Marquez, Marlene MASW; Moron, Leanna P. BA

doi: 10.1097/FCH.0000000000000233
Original Articles

Using a community-based participatory research approach, we surveyed 134 undocumented Central American immigrant mothers to examine correlates of maternal mental health. Drawing upon an ecosystemic framework, predictors of depression included structural and familial stressors, parental concerns, and maternal health factors. Mothers' perceptions of child affect, traumatic stress, and general health ratings were among the most salient predictors. However, structural and familial stressors, such as food insecurity and single parenting, also accounted for significant variance in depression scores. Findings informed community actions such as advocating for mental health care and building awareness of families' lived experiences within the local school system.

College of Education and Human Development, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia (Drs Letiecq, Vesely, and Goodman and Ms Mehta); Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services, Alexandria, Virginia (Ms Marquez); and Child Trends, Bethesda, Maryland (Ms Moron).

Correspondence: Bethany L. Letiecq, PhD, College of Education and Human Development, George Mason University, 4400 University Dr, MSN 4C2, Fairfax, VA 22030 (

This study was funded by the Bruhn Morris Family Foundation. The authors thank their funders and community partners for support. Most importantly, the authors acknowledge the participants of this study who gave their time, trusted them, and invited them into their homes so they could learn more about their lived experiences and well-being in the US immigration context.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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