Authorized and Unauthorized Immigrant Parents: The Impact of Legal Vulnerability on Family Contexts (Kalina Brabeck, Erin Sibley, & M. Brinton Lykes, Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Science, 2016).

This study explores the social-ecological contexts of unauthorized immigrant families and their U.S.-born children, through examining how otherwise similarly low-income, urban, Latino immigrant families differ on the basis of the parents’ legal status and interactions with the immigration system. Drawing on social-ecological theory, variations based on parents’ legal vulnerability among exosystem-level experiences (e.g., parents’ occupational stress, discrimination experiences) and microsystem-level experiences (e.g., parents’ mental health, parenting stress) were explored. Structured interviews were conducted with 178 families with an immigrant parent from Mexico, Central America, and Dominican Republic, and a child (aged 7-10 years) born in the United States. Unauthorized parents reported statistically higher occupational stress, ethnicity-based discrimination, challenges learning English, immigration challenges, and legal status challenges, and lower use of social services, when compared with authorized parents. The groups did not differ on microsystem factors (e.g., parent mental health, and parenting, marital, and family stress).