Immigration and Stress: The Relationship Between Parents' Acculturative Stress and Young Children's Anxiety Symptoms

By Alberto L. Leon
2014, Vol. 6 No. 03 | pg. 4/5 |


Demographic Correlates of Child Anxiety Symptoms

Sample demographic information is reported in Table 1. Variations in child anxiety symptoms related to sample demographic characteristics were explored using a series of independent samples t-tests. There was no difference in child anxiety symptoms between boys (M = 6.35, SD = 4) and girls (M = 7.67. SD = 4.07; t = -1.86; n = 134). Also, age did not significantly predict child anxiety symptoms (r = .14, p = .11; n = 135). There was a significant difference in child anxiety symptoms when comparing survey language. Parents who took the survey in Spanish reported higher levels of child anxiety (M = 8.54, SD = 4.54) than parents who took the survey in English (M = 6.72, SD = 3.9; t = -2.02, p = .05; n = 135). However, since Spanish language is highly related to immigrant status, this was not used as a covariate in subsequent analyses. Only one parent who took the survey in Spanish was a non-immigrant (χ2 = .21.3, p < .001; n = 128). The sample mean for the BITSEA (M = 7.05; SD = 4.06) was greater than the norm population mean for the BITSEA (M = 6.7; SD = 3.61).

Table 1

Acculturative Stress in the Immigrant Parent

Preliminary analyses were performed to ensure no violation of the assumptions of normality and linearity. An alpha level of p < .05 was used as a significance criterion for all statistical tests. Correlations and descriptive data for primary study variables are reported in Table 2. An independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare acculturative stress scores for non-immigrants and immigrants. As expected, immigrants reported higher levels of acculturative stress (M = 3.05, SD = 1.98), as compared to non-immigrants (M = 2.362120) = -2.016ompat, SD = 1.83; t = -2.02, p = 0.046; n = 122). However, the magnitude of the difference between the means (mean difference = -.695, 95% CI: -1.378 to -.012) was small (�2= .008).

It was hypothesized that, for immigrant families, higher scores of stress factors related to acculturation in the parent would predict an increased level of anxiety symptoms in the child. The association between acculturative stress in immigrant parents and symptoms of anxiety in their children (as measured by parent report) was investigated using a Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient. There was a strong positive correlation between the two variables, (r = .42, p = .002; n = 52), with high levels of acculturative stress in the immigrant parent associated with higher levels of anxiety symptoms in the child. When observing the full sample (both immigrants and non-immigrants), acculturative stress in the parent did not significantly predict symptoms of anxiety in the child (r = .06, p = .54; n = 124).

The relationship between acculturative stress and parent emotional functioning was also explored among immigrant parents. A logarithmic transformation was conducted on the BAI summary scale to correct a positive skew of 2.57 to .54. While results were in the expected direction, this finding was non-significant (r = .22, p = .11; n = 52), using a Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient.

Symptoms of Anxiety in Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Children

In the second hypothesis, it was expected that first-generation and second-generation immigrant children would show an increased level of anxiety symptoms, relative to children whose parents were born in the U.S (non-immigrant children). An independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare level of anxiety symptoms for immigrant and non-immigrant children. There was no significant difference in anxiety symptoms between immigrant children (M = 7.49, SD = 4.6) and non-immigrant children (M = 7.092120) = -2.016ompat, SD = 3.53; t = -.54, p = .59; n = 121), as reported by parents. Levene’s test for equality of variances across groups suggested potential variance (F = 3.76, p = .06), so the t statistic for variant groups is reported. The magnitude of the differences in the means (mean difference = -.402, 95% CI: -1.89 to -1.09) was small (Æ�2 = .002).

Parent Anxiety and Child Anxiety

The relationship between parent and child anxiety symptoms was also explored. Higher levels of symptoms of anxiety in the parent predicted higher levels of anxiety in the child. As expected, a positive correlation between the two variables was observed (r = .25, p = .005; n = 124), using a Pearson product-moment coefficient.

Table 2

Immigrant Status as a Moderator

To determine if immigrant status was a significant moderator for the relationship between parent acculturative stress and child anxiety symptoms, the interaction effect of immigrant status on parent acculturative stress was investigated. An interaction term was created from the product of the mean-centered Immigrant Status and Parent Acculturative Stress variables. Hierarchal multiple regression was used with immigrant status and parent acculturative stress entered in Step 1 and the interaction term (Immigrant Status x Parent Acculturative Stress) in step 2, predicting levels of child anxiety symptoms (BITSEA Anxiety). Immigrant status and parent acculturative stress in Step 1 explained only .8% of the variance in child anxiety symptoms (R squared change = .008, F change (2, 111) = .47, p = .63). In Step 1, the immigrant status variable (b = .01, p = .92) and the acculturative stress variable (b = .09, p = .36) beta weights were both non-significant. After entry of the Immigrant Status x Parent Acculturative Stress interaction term in Step 2, the total variance explained by the model was 13.8%, F (3, 110) = 85.28, p = .001. The interaction term explained an additional 13% of the variance in child anxiety symptoms, after controlling for immigrant status and acculturative stress in the parent, (R squared change = .13, F change (1, 110) = 16.6, p < .001). In the final model, only the interaction term was statistically significant, with the Immigrant Status x Parent Acculturative Stress variable representing a higher beta value (b = .36, p < .001) than immigrant status (b = .03, p = .74) and parent acculturative stress (b = .08, p = .41). Post-hoc analyses indicated that for immigrants, higher levels of parent acculturative stress were related to higher levels of child anxiety (r = .42, p = .002), whereas this relationship was reversed for non-immigrant parents (r = -.294, p = .02).

Figure 1

Table 3

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