Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Ester R. Shapiro

Second Advisor

Alice C. Carter

Third Advisor

C. Eduardo Siqueira


Research on child development and maternal well-being in immigrant families presents contradictory findings, documenting both cultural protective factors termed “the immigrant paradox” and developmental risks (Fuller & Garcia Coll, 2010; Suarez-Orozco, Rhodes, & Milburn, 2009). Further, little is known about immigration advantage/disadvantage in early childhood, or risk and protective factors for specific groups with dissimilar immigration experiences. This study integrated transnational socialcultural/ecological and biopsychosocial theories to explore impacts of risk and protective factors on two groups of migrant and non-migrant Brazilian mothers and infants from Minas Gerais, permitting assessment of migration impacts while controlling for regional contextual/subcultural factors. Eighty-two mothers and their 12-20-month-olds from Minas Gerais were assessed in their homes in Massachusetts (N=41) and Minas Gerais (N=41). Maternal questionnaires measured transnational maternal, family and parenting practices to create indices of protective and risk factors. Outcome variables were measured using the BSID-III and BITSEA (child cognitive and social/emotional), and the K-10 (maternal well-being). The findings show that Brazilian immigrant mothers are highly transnational. They tended to absorb positive dominant culture parenting values while still maintaining native protective practices, drawing support from the immigrant community, and from family and friends in Brazil. Non-migrant mothers were more likely to report higher poverty levels, parenting stress and socio-emotional problems in their infants. Child development (cognitive, language, and motor) did not differ significantly between the two groups. Familismo and church attendance buffered effects of risks on maternal well-being. A protective index did not buffer impacts of cumulative risk on infant development, socio-emotional problems, and maternal psychological symptoms in immigrants.


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