Impact of Parental Immigration Status and Child Access to Health Care on the Mental Health of Latino Citizen-Children

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Approximately 4.5 million U.S.-citizen children live in mixed-status families with at least one parent of unauthorized immigration status. According to research, immigration and legal status of parents have a significant impact on citizen-children’s well-being. The purpose of this project was to study the impact of parental immigration status on the mental health of Latino citizen-children living in mixed-status families and its interaction with child utilization of health care services. It was hypothesized that parental legal status would have a direct impact on citizen-children’s mental health, significant over time. Parental legal status was also expected to interact with child utilization of health care services in impacting citizen-children’s mental health. An association between unauthorized parental immigration status and higher reported mental health problems was expected. Multivariate ANOVA results indicated that parental legal status had a significant main effect on child internalizing and externalizing problems with greater problems reported for children of detained and deported parents than for children of legal permanent residents (LPRs). Although all children significantly improved over time, this significant group difference remained at a 6-month follow-up. There was no significant interaction effect of legal status by time. Child utilization of the California Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, also had a significant main effect on child outcomes for children of parents with unauthorized status, regardless of parental contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). There was no interaction effect of legal status by child Medi-Cal utilization for parents of unauthorized status.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Rojas-Flores, Lisseth

Document Type





Mental health, Hispanic Americans, Child psychiatry, Immigrants




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