Immigrant mothers face numerous challenges and unique stressors related not only to their role as asylum-seekers but also to their roles as women and caretakers. Some studies suggest that immigrant mothers may exhibit high internalizing symptoms related to pre-migration trauma exposure, while others claim that such symptoms may be due to the internalization of their children’s mental health. In view of this, a total of 60 recently arrived immigrant mothers and their children from Central America, predominantly the Northern Triangle, who arrived via the U.S-Mexico border were sampled. Immigrant mothers and their children were administered a Spanish battery containing health and trauma screeners. Hierarchical regression analyses revealed that, after controlling for maternal demographics and trauma exposure by child and mother, the children’s mental health score was not a significant predictor to maternal mental health; instead, maternal demographics were the strongest predictors to poorer maternal mental health. Clinicians working with this population should be aware of perceived violations of women’s rights. More importantly, policy reform should consider the unique challenges immigrant mothers and their children face upon their arrival into the US and take meaningful action to alleviate such challenges. Future research and clinical implications are discussed.

Key Take Away Points

  • There was no association between children’s mental health and maternal mental health
  • Maternal demographics were the strongest predictors of poorer maternal mental health
  • Asylum-seeking immigrant mothers face unique traumatic experiences that predict their mental health outcomes

Author Biography

Andy Torres Andy Torres is a PD student in Clinical Psychology program at UTRGV at the Multicultural Clinical Lab under Dr. Mercado's mentorship. He has 14 publications in a wide range of areas ranging from cognitive neuropsychology, multicultural psychology, immigration, stress and sleep, NDDs, and COVID-19 mental health. He has over four years in clinical experience working as a behavioral therapist serving adults, adolescents, and children with neurodevelopmental disorders including Autism (ASD). He also serves on the Texas Psychology Association Student Senate. He intends to become a licensed psychologist and specialize in trauma and eating disorders. The moments that he shares with his friends and family are what fuel his everlasting dreams. Frances Morales Frances R. Morales graduated from University of Texas-Pan American in 2008, obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Biology, with a double minor in Chemistry and Spanish. After this, Frances completed a Master of Arts in Experimental Psychology with a strong emphasis on Behavior Analysis at the same institution. Subsequently, she attained a Master of Arts in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2015. While completing her master's level education in the field of Psychology, Frances gained expertise in mental illnesses as well as mental wellness, appropriate diagnoses, and evidence-based treatments. After graduation, Frances has taught college-level Psychology courses at different academic institutions, including Concordia University Texas and Saint Edward’s University in Austin, and more recently at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. In addition to her academic positions, Frances has worked too as a mental health professional, providing direct services to adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses at a Mental Health Mental Retardation Center. Frances’ main objective as a mental health professional has been to promote an improved quality of life by addressing barriers and strengths related to the recovery goals and wellness of the clients served. Now Frances is a doctoral student at the Multicultural Clinical Lab, under the mentorship of Dr. Alfonso Mercado, focusing on the study of trauma and resilience among recently immigrated families from the Northern Triangle region of Central America. Amanda Palomin Amanda Palomin is a graduate student at the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) where she is completing a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. She previously attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2018. Amanda gained research experience in human development, specifically focusing on the emotional, social, physical, and educational health outcomes of Hispanic individuals. After this, Amanda earned a Master of Science in Experimental Psychology from the University of Texas - San Antonio (UTSA) in 2020. While completing her graduate education at UTSA she gained experience in applied psychometrics, specifically conducting analysis pertaining to clinical constructs such as Suicide, Anxiety, and Depression. Amanda is a currently a doctoral student member of the Multicultural Clinical Lab at UTRGV where she is gaining experience with research and clinical work that focuses on multicultural psychology, specifically focusing on evaluating and improving mental health outcomes and treatment of culturally diverse individuals. Marika Dawkins, Ph.D. Marika Dawkins, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, Texas, USA. Her publications focus primarily on juvenile and criminal justice-related issues. Her most recent publications include “The Talk” regarding minority youth interactions with the police (co-authored), appears in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice; A profile of the Caribbean region: Recent trends in crime and violence and Drug trafficking in the Caribbean: A Jamaican case study (sole-authored), which appear in Crime and Violence in the Caribbean: Lessons from Jamaica (Lexington Books). Her professional service includes serving as Chairperson of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Section (JJDS) of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS) from 2018 to 2020 where she also chaired the Tory J. Caeti Memorial (Young Scholar) Award Committee from 2020-2022. Alfonso Mercado, Ph.D. Alfonso Mercado, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Science and School of Medicine’s Psychiatry Department at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley. He is the Director of the Multicultural Clinical Lab with research focus on treatment efficacy with culturally diverse groups, personality and substance abuse research with Latino populations, and examining trauma and resiliency with recent immigrants. He is the President of the Texas Psychological Association and also serves as the Diversity Division Chair. He is an elected leader for the American Psychological Association Committee on Rural Health.


The authors thank the Humanitarian Respite Center and its valuable staff and leaders.