Ethnicity and Health in America Series:
The Shared Impact of Immigration and Acculturative Stress

All in The Familia: The Shared Impact of Immigration and Acculturative StressSeptember 15 marks the day when five Latin American countries celebrate their independence and the first day of the 30-day celebration of the National Hispanic Heritage Month. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the American Psychological Association's (APA) Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs (OEMA) is raising public awareness concerning the chronic condition of stress among Hispanic and Latino populations. The chronic condition of stress was selected because of its prevalence and impact on health within health disparity population groups (e.g., people of color), and their high association with many other chronic diseases.

We are featuring articles by two psychologists, who have substantive knowledge and experience in the field of mental health, in addition to significant experience working with Hispanic and Latino families and communities. Carmen R. Valdez, PhD, is an assistant professor in the department of counseling psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been actively involved in Keeping Families Strong (KFS), a National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)-funded prevention program designed to reduce the impact of parental depression on children and build family resilience and strength. In addition to working with families with a depressed parent, Valdez is interested in assessing mental health and health providers' level of understanding and multicultural competence with their Latino clients/patients with depression. In her featured article, Carmen describes sociocultural and family stressors contributing to and affected by maternal depression in Latina/o populations. It offers a rational for family interventions for maternal depression and describes Fortalezas Familiares, a family strengths intervention.

All in The Familia: The Shared Impact of Immigration and Acculturative StressFrank Dillon, PhD, is an assistant professor at Florida International University School of Social Work. Dillon's program of research addresses health disparities and mental health issues affecting racial, ethnic and sexual minority groups in the United States. He aims to promote culturally informed psychosocial interventions. His principal research themes are (a) elucidating cultural and social determinants of substance use disorders and HIV risk behaviors, (b) developing culturally relevant and valid psychosocial measures and (c) promoting multicultural competent counseling practice and education. In his featured article, Dillon reviews a theorized link between Latino immigrants' experience of acculturative stress and declines in family cohesion from pre- to post-immigration contexts. Implications for health services for recent Latino immigrants are also addressed.

Selected Articles

Fortalezas Familiares Program: Building Sociocultural and Family Strengths in Latina Women with Depression and Their Families


Carmen R. Valdez

Jessica Abegglen

Claire T. Hauser

Preface, by Carmen R. Valdez, PhD: Although depression in Latina women is becoming increasingly recognized, risk and protective mechanisms associated with children's outcomes when a mother has depression are not well understood for Latino families. In this article, we review the literature on these mechanisms, with an emphasis on sociocultural factors shaping family processes, such as acculturative and immigration stress, "familismo" and family obligations. This review serves as the theoretical basis and development of the Fortalezas Familiares (FF; Family Strengths) program, a community-based, 12-week intervention for Latina immigrant women with depression, other caregivers and their children. Throughout this article, we use a case study to illustrate a Latina mother's vulnerability to depression and the family's response to the FF program. Recommendations for future research and practice include consideration of sociocultural processes in shaping both outcomes of Latino families and their response to interventions. Read the article abstract

Acculturative Stress and Diminishing Family Cohesion Among Recent Latino Immigrants


Frank R. Dillon

Mario De La Rosa

Gladys E. Ibañez 

Preface, by Frank Dillon, PhD: Acculturative stress refers to the psychosocial strain experienced by immigrants in response to challenges encountered while adapting to cultural differences in a new country. Decades of research on acculturative stress has raised awareness of its impact on the health of Latinos in the United States, making it an often-cited social determinant of health disparities endured by U.S. Latinos. Acculturative stress is linked to an array of poor physical and mental health outcomes, including anxiety, depression, suicide, and alcohol abuse. Yet, relatively little is known about the experience of acculturative stress during the initial two years post-immigration. This gap in the literature is understandable given inherent challenges in conducting research with recent immigrant populations, which often involves undocumented and transient participants. Thus, questions remain concerning how potentially health protective cultural resources, such as familismo, possessed by Latino immigrants in their country of origin interact with acculturative stressors during the critical months after arrival to the U.S. Mario De La Rosa, PhD, Gladys Ibañez, PhD, and I investigated the theorized link between Latino immigrants' experience of acculturative stress during their two initial years in the U.S. and declines in family cohesion from pre- to post-immigration contexts. The sample included 405 adult Latino immigrants who immigrated to Miami-Dade County, Fla. The sample is unique in that participants lived in the U.S. for a very brief period of time at study onset (less than one year). The study was supported by award number P20MD002288 from the National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities. Read the article abstract.