Methods: Data came from 3 waves (child ages 3, 5, and 9) of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which sampled nearly 5,000 mother-child dyads in 20 US cities. The sample was restricted to first-generation immigrant mothers (N = 831). Financial hardship was measured at age 3 via a sum of 10 dichotomous variables that captured material hardship within the past year, such as inability to pay bills (range: 0-7). Neighborhood cohesion was measured at age 3 using the 5-item Social Cohesion and Trust Scale (𝝰 = .71). Depression was measured at age 3 using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview-Short Form, which measures likelihood of being diagnosed with major depression (0=unlikely, 1=likely). Parenting stress was measured at age 5 using the 4-item Aggravation in Parenting Scale (𝝰 = .73). Child externalizing behavior was measured at age 9 using the 18-item Child Behavior Checklist (𝝰 = .86). Longitudinal path analyses were conducted in Mplus using full-information maximum likelihood estimation. Analyses controlled for maternal marriage and cohabitation status, household income, education, race, year immigrated to the US, and child sex.
Results: Financial hardship (LO = 0.31, OR = 1.36, p < .001) and neighborhood cohesion (LO = -0.47, OR = 0.63, p < .05) both predicted maternal depression at age 3. Maternal depression at age 3 predicted parenting stress at age 5 (b = 0.29, p < .01). Parenting stress at age 5 predicted child externalizing behavior at age 9 (b = 0.06, p < .05). However, parenting stress did not mediate the relationship between depression and child externalizing behavior (b = 0.01, p = .155), the relationship between financial hardship and child externalizing behavior (b = 0.00, p = .303), or the relationship between neighborhood cohesion and child externalizing behavior (b = -0.01, p = .105).
Conclusions and Implications: This study provides supportive evidence of the Family Stress Model among immigrant mothers. Findings highlight the links between financial hardship, neighborhood cohesion, and depression on future parenting stress and child behavior problems. Increased understanding of processes by which financial strain and neighborhood cohesion impact child adjustment over time is vital. Findings suggest that social work interventions need to address economic, psychological and environmental circumstances in efforts to reduce risk of developing problem behaviors among children of immigrants.