Single Motherhood and Children’s Emotional-Behavioral Health: Does Migration Status Matter?

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Leafia YE, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
Prior research has repeatedly found a robust association between single motherhood and disadvantages in children’s emotional-behavioral health. Most of these studies either focus on a certain population subgroup or make the underlying assumption that the association is homogeneous across groups, as their main goal is typically to explain the mechanisms for the association. Relatively few studies have rigorously considered or been able to test the possibility that the association varies across demographic groups.

Research that investigates these variations is increasingly relevant in the U.S. context given the growing diversity in the child population, especially in terms of nativity. As of 2014, one in four children in the U.S. live in an immigrant family, and they account for all growth in the American child population since 2006. The dynamics of these families often differ from their non-immigrant counterparts due to intricacies in the acculturation process.

To address this increasingly important heterogeneity, I ask: does the association between single motherhood and children’s mental well-being vary by the migration status of children? Using data from National Survey of Children’s Health, I find that migration status does matter to the association between single motherhood and children’s mental health. The common disadvantages of children in single mother households are even more pronounced among first-generation immigrant children in the cases of depression and anxiety, but much less pronounced in the case of behavior/conduct problems. I find no such evidence among second-generation immigrant children. In other words, having a single mother might indeed mean something different for immigrant children and families, and the stories further differ between children with different levels of acculturation. Having a single mother could be a particularly difficult experience for foreign-born children and is linked with higher risks of emotional problems, though this pattern is mixed with lower risks of behavioral health problems.