Household structure, family ties, and psychological distress among U.S.-born and immigrant Latino women

Kristine M Molina, Carmela Alcántara
Journal of Family Psychology: JFP 2013, 27 (1): 147-58
Latino women endorse the highest rates of past-month depressive symptoms relative to Latino men and non-Latino White men and women. Yet, research into the specific domains of family life that reduce or engender psychological distress among Latinas is sparse. We examine the hypothesis that indicators of household structure and family ties will relate to psychological distress among Latinas in the United States, and that these associations will vary by nativity status. We employed nationally representative data of Latina adults (N = 1,427) from the National Latino and Asian American Study. Nativity-stratified regression analyses revealed that strained family ties (i.e., family burden, family cultural conflict) were associated with greater levels of past-month psychological distress for both U.S.-born and immigrant Latinas. Yet, the effect of household structures on psychological distress differed by nativity status. Adjusting for sociodemographic factors, lower levels of household income were associated with greater psychological distress; and having children in the household was associated with lower levels of psychological distress among U.S.-born Latinas. In contrast, for immigrant Latinas, being out of the labor force was associated with greater levels of psychological distress. Results suggest that dynamics of both the household and family context predict differential as well as similar mental-health outcomes across segments of the Latina population in the United States. These findings underscore the need to understand the pathways by which different facets of family life-structural and social domains-relate to mental-health status among subgroups of Latinas. Our results also have implications for the development of tailored interventions to meet the specific needs of Latinas.

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