Abstract: Parenting Behaviors, Immigration, and Adolescent Mixed Depression/Anxiety Symptoms in Fragile Families (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

501P Parenting Behaviors, Immigration, and Adolescent Mixed Depression/Anxiety Symptoms in Fragile Families

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Ning He, MSW, PhD student, New York University, New York, NY
Yanfeng Xu, MSW, PhD Candidate, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Background/Purpose:  Over 13% of the total population in the United States are immigrants (American Immigration Council, 2017). Evidence shows that immigrant youth has more severe mental health issues compared to their U.S. born counterparts due to discrimination, lower socioeconomic status, and higher levels of acculturative stress (Suárez-Orozco et al., 2015). Family system theory (Bowen, 1966) and social determinants of mental health framework (World Health Organization, 2010) point that parenting behaviors, along with other factors, have significant impacts on adolescent mental health. Research has shown that immigrant parents may have different parenting behaviors, which, consequently affects adolescent mental health differently (Kim et al., 2013). However, does the relationship differ in immigrant and non-immigrant groups if they are both disadvantaged? It has not been much explored yet. To address this gap in the literature, this study aims to explore the relations among U.S. born and non-U.S. born adolescents and to test further if the immigration status moderates the association between parenting behaviors and adolescent mixed depression/anxiety.

Methods: This study used the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCW) year 15 (Wave 6) data with all the children at the age of 15 years old (N = 3,400). The sample included 589 immigrant adolescents and 2,811 non-immigrant adolescents whose primary caregivers are either biological mothers (92.44%) or biological fathers (7.56%). The dependent variable was youth mixed depression/anxiety symptoms, which was measured using the doctors’ clinical diagnoses as a dummy variable. The key independent variables were parental monitoring and parental discipline. The moderator was the family’s immigration status, which was measured by asking if one of the child’s parents was born in the US. Covariates included child race/ethnicity, child sex, caregiver’s age, family income, caregiver’s education, relationship between the mother and the father, parent-child relationship, and parenting stress. Univariate analysis, bivariate analysis, and a series of logistic regression models were conducted.

Results:  Results from logistic regression models showed that parental monitoring (OR=0.86, p=0.000) was negatively associated with youth depression/anxiety, while parental discipline (OR=1.27, p=0.000) was positively associated with youth mental health outcomes. Allowing interactions in logistic regression models, a significant interaction term indicated that the immigration status moderated the relation between parental discipline and youth depression/anxiety (OR=0.77, p=0.025). However, the immigration status did not moderate the relationship between parental monitoring and youth mental health.

Conclusions and Implications: The results imply that parental monitoring is a protective factor while parental discipline is a risk factor of youth depression/ anxiety in both immigrant and non-immigrant families. Being immigrants could mitigate the effect of parental discipline in fragile families. However, it is not to deny the effect of immigrant status on adolescent mental health outcomes. Research to explore the mechanism of how parental monitor and discipline work in adolescent development is needed. To reduce both immigrant and non-immigrant adolescent depression/anxiety, both universal and targeted interventions on parental behaviors are needed.