The Acculturation of Latino Immigrant Women

The Acculturation of Latino Immigrant Women in the USA

Common wisdom would dictate that immigrant Latino women, coming from Mexico, Central and South America, should try to “acculturate” as soon as possible to enjoy the benefits of the US dominant culture. This would mean that they might try to learn to speak English, perhaps speak English at home and to “adopt” new and more modern ways of rearing children and doing things with the family. However, in view of several recent studies, this should be put in question. The evidence suggests that immigrants may “lose” in terms of mental health outcomes the more acculturated they are. This is the case clearly with women in the perinatal period. Surprisingly, the evidence, Ixchel has learned, shows that the less acculturated immigrants from Latinamerica, have lower infant mortality, perinatal complications and low birth weight compared with Latino women who are more acculturated ( i.e. who have been born here, or who have spent over 13 years in the US) . The more acculturated ones have higher prevalence of all those problems, including drug use/dependency, alcoholism and depression. This same phenomenon has been found in men and even in adolescents, the more “acculturated” the higher the rate of psychosocial difficulties, less exercise, worse diet ( higher rate of overweight and diabetes). It is speculated that the “traditional” societies offer extensive psychosocial support, for instance for women, and also that there are informal social controls. So, mere “blind” acculturation may not be the best idea for immigrants.

Aguirre-Molina M., Molina CW y Zambrana RE Health issues in the Latino Community . Jossey Bass

Heilemann MV, Lee KA, Kury FS. Strengths and vulnerabilities of women of Mexican descent in relation to depressive symptoms. Nurs Res 2002 May-Jun;51(3):175-82

Martorell, R., Mendoza, F.S., Castillo, R.O., Pawson, I.G., Buldge, C.C. Short stature and plump physique of Mexican-American children. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 1987. Vol. 73. 475-487

Ortega AN; Rosenheck R; Alegría M; Desai RA. Acculturation and the lifetime risk of psychiatric and substance use disorders among Hispanics . J Nerv Ment Dis. 2000 Nov;188(11):728-735

Pastore D.R., Diaz a.D. Cultural and medical issues of Latino adolescents. Adolescent Medicine. 1998. vol. 9 . 315-322



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