Academic journal article Family Relations

Risk and Resilience in Rural Communities: The Experiences of Immigrant Latina Mothers

Academic journal article Family Relations

Risk and Resilience in Rural Communities: The Experiences of Immigrant Latina Mothers

Article excerpt

Immigrants from Latin America are increasingly settling in rural U.S. communities that welcome them as workers but are often unprepared to address their needs and promote their wellbeing. Building on recent descriptive studies, we examined factors associated with individual and family well-being in a sample of 112 immigrant Latina mothers (mean age 34.5 years, 93% Mexican) who completed in-person interviews. Mothers who reported a more negative community climate reported lower levels of individual and family well-being (life satisfaction, financial well-being, and food security). Composite measures of economic and social capital were positively related to family well-being; unexpectedly, mothers with higher levels of human capital reported lower levels of life satisfaction. Discussion focuses on implications of results for future research, theory-building, and practice.

Key Words: immigrants. Latinos, protective factors, resilience, risk factors, rural

Immigrants make up over one 10th of the U.S. population, and nearly half of immigrants are of Hispanic/Latin American origin (Grieco, 2009). Historically, Latino immigrants have tended to concentrate in urban areas, but there has been a population shift in recent decades toward rural destinations that offer employment opportunities in the agricultural, service, and manufacturing industries (e.g., Chapa, Saenz, Rochin, & McConnell, 2004; McConnell, 2004). In recent years, family scholars have documented the opportunities and challenges Latino immigrant families experience in rural destinations. Immigrants typically describe a number of challenges, including language barriers, discrimination, transportation issues, and lack of benefits due to low-paying, high-turnover jobs (e.g., Cristancho, Garces, Peters, & Mueller, 2008; Lewis, 2008). At the same time, they describe sources of strength that may foster positive adjustment, such as strong family connections and the flexibility to adapt to life in a new land (e.g., Campbell, 2008; Órnelas, Perreira, Beeber, & Maxwell, 2009; Parra-Cardona, Bulock, Imig, Villarruel, & Gold, 2006). These findings have led scholars to describe immigrant Latinos as resilient, showing good adaptation despite experiencing challenges (e.g., Campbell, 2008; Parra-Cardona et al., 2006). These studies (and others reviewed below) do indeed show that Latino immigrants have an impressive ability to weather adversity. It is important to note, however, that few studies of immigrants have conducted the types of analyses recommended by scholars working within a resilience approach. Such analyses yield the strongest evidence of positive adaptation in the face of hardship.

The construct of resilience was developed to describe individuals (see Luthar & Zelazo, 2003) or families (see Boss, 2002) that maintain betterthan-expected functioning in the face of adversity or risk. Attributes that allow individuals to function well despite experiencing adversity are called "protective" factors because they ameliorate the negative impact of risk exposure (Luthar, Cicchetti, & Becker, 2000). In statistical terms, a protective relation exists when a factor operates in interaction with a risk factor, such that in the presence of the protective factor, positive adaptation is evident, whereas in the absence of the protective factor, increased risk exposure leads to decreased functioning (Luthar et al., 2000). Resilience scholars emphasize the need to differentiate protective factors from "promotive" factors - those that show a direct positive association with an outcome regardless of level of risk exposure (Luthar et al., 2000; Luthar & Zelazo, 2003). The distinction is subtle, but precision in describing and assessing these constructs will ultimately increase understanding of the underlying processes. To our knowledge, no studies have examined Latino immigrant adjustment using this type of analytic approach. The goal of the current analysis was to investigate relations among risk factors, potential protective or promotive factors, and outcomes in a sample of Latina mothers using a resilience framework. …

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