Academic journal article Health and Social Work

Hopelessness, Family Stress, and Depression among Mexican-Heritage Mothers in the Southwest

Academic journal article Health and Social Work

Hopelessness, Family Stress, and Depression among Mexican-Heritage Mothers in the Southwest

Article excerpt

The ongoing upsurge of Mexican immigration in the U.S.-Mexico southwestern border region and other regions of the United States has attracted the interest of researchers who are studying how families adapt to their new environments and how they cope with the pressures associated with immigration. Mexican-heritage immigrants, like other working-class immigrants, often encounter institutional patterns of oppression and discrimination that reduce their likelihood of economic mobility in a host culture (Phinney, 1990). The Southwest region has been identified as a context in which Mexican-heritage residents experience high levels of acculturative stress, in part due to ethnic discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiments (Guarnaccia et al., 2007). The awareness of these obstacles, plus the constant threat of deportation and economic insecurity, can trigger depression and a sense of hopelessness among Mexican-heritage men and women residing in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands (Hancock & Siu, 2009).

The present study approached hopelessness as a possible culturally specific response to a unique sociopolitical context in which acculturative stress can surface in relation to, as well as independent of, more traditional psychiatric diagnoses such as depression. To work with a Mexican-heritage sample is significant, because this group experiences great disparity in accessing mental health services compared with the non-Hispanic white majority (Blendon et al., 2007).This study focused on Mexican-heritage mothers residing in the U.S.-Mexico border region because people of Mexican ancestry represent 64 percent of all Latinos and Latinas in the United States (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008). Furthermore, the study focused on female respondents of Mexican ancestry because Latinas have higher prevalence rates of psychiatric disorders than their male counterparts (Alegria, Mulvaney-Day, et al., 2007). We hypothesized that lack of social support and high parent-child conflict would be associated with an increased level of hopelessness among Mexican-heritage mothers. We also expected that hopelessness would be associated with depression among low-income Mexican-heritage women.

HOPELESSNESS

Hopelessness is conceptualized as an individual's negative expectancy regarding the future, and it is characterized by negative emotions, pessimistic expectations, and loss of pleasure in life (Beck, Weissman Lester, & Trexler, 1974; Heilemann, Coffey-Love, & Frutos, 2004). Hopelessness is the expectation that negative outcomes are inevitable or that positive outcomes will not develop. These expectations are paired with the feeling that one cannot do anything to change the future (Abela, Gagnon, & Auerbach, 2007). Individuals who are pessimistic about the causes and consequences of events and who tend to ascribe negative self-characteristics after negative events have been found to be more at risk for hopelessness (Brozina & Abela, 2006).

The hopelessness theory of depression supports the idea that hopelessness inevitably leads to hopelessness depression (HD) (Abramson, Metalsky, & Alloy, 1989). This approach differentiates HD from the more traditional depression described in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).The difference is that the symptoms of HD are evident only in the presence, but not in the absence, of negative life stress (Abramson et al., 1989), whereas this is not true with depression. This theory also advances the idea that when faced with a negative life event, a cognitively vulnerable individual will perceive the event as implying that he or she is unworthy or deficient (Haeffel et al., 2008). Conversely, high levels of self-esteem and self-worth are strongly negatively correlated with HD and depression and significantly associated with happiness (Cheng & Furnham, 2003). Optimism has been identified as having a protective effect against hopelessness (Hirsch & Conner, 2006). …

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