A new study out today finds Mexican immigrant mothers, especially recently arrived mothers, are less tense and depressed than white or Chinese mothers. (Photo/Getty Images)

Mexican immigrant moms happier and less tense, but read less to their children, says study

Mexican-American immigrant mothers, especially those in the U.S. for five years or less, show significantly less depressive symptoms and have less conflict and tension with their partners than Chinese or non-Latino white mothers, acording to a new study published in the journal Child Development. The Mexican mothers’ “robust levels of mental health,” as the study says, have positive outcomes for the children. “One of the things we found is that Latino kids arrived in school with strong social and emotional development skills,” says Dr. Claudia Galindo, one of the co-authors of the study and assistant professor at the University of Maryland.  Mexican immigrant mothers, for example, were also found to provide supportive family settings.

“Latino families have been going through rough times in the way they are perceived,” says Dr. Galindo. “Especially in schools, there are stereotypes about how badly Hispanic children are doing or how Latino families do not provide enough resources for their kids,” she says. “These are positive aspects, and it is part of the ‘immigrant paradox,’ since many of these Latino families come from backgrounds that aren’t easy,” Dr. Galindo adds.

One area where Mexican immigrant mothers did not do as well was in reading to their children and encouraging cognitive skills. The study’s authors say that this is partly due to the differences in maternal education. Sixty seven percent of Mexican immigrant mothers had either a high school diploma or less, compared with only six percent of Chinese immigrant mothers. The study looked at over 5,000 mothers with children aged nine to 48 months.

“What we have seen is that Latino mothers feel very insecure because they don’t feel they have the resources to help their children, since many have not finished school,” says Dr. Galindo. She says there are things immigrant parents can do, even if they have not achieved high levels of education. A mother can open a book and talk to a child about the pictures, or talk to the children while they cook and go to the supermarket, which can build language and math skills.

“There are always ways parents can reinforce cognitive development,” Galindo adds. “We don’t need to be high school graduates to share the importance of learning and empowering Latina immigrant moms is very important,” she says. At the same time, the study’s co-author says the results show there are resources Latino immigrant children bring to the classroom; not only social and emotional development skills, but bilingual skills as well.

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