Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are a measure of childhood toxic stress that have a dose-dependent relationship with many adult health outcomes. While ACEs have been validated across diverse populations to measure neglect, abuse, and family dysfunction, they do not specifically assess trauma related to racism/xenophobia and immigration. 54% of Latinx youth in the United States are immigrants or children of immigrants and a large group with potentially unmeasured trauma. This study looks beyond ACEs to identify adverse and protective factors for healthy development among Latinx youth in an agricultural community through the perspectives of their mothers.
Twenty mothers of adolescent participants in A Crecer: the Salinas Teen Health Study (a prospective cohort study of 599 adolescents) completed semi-structured interviews in Spanish. Interviews focused on mothers’ perspectives on community resources, parenting strategies, parenting support systems, and their future aspirations for their children. Four coders completed iterative rounds of thematic coding drawing from published ACEs frameworks (original ACEs, community ACEs) and immigrant specific adverse events arising from the data.
Mothers in this study reported adverse experiences captured within community-level ACEs but also distinct experiences related to intergenerational trauma and immigrant-related adversities. The most cited community-level ACEs were housing instability and community violence. Immigrant related adversities included experiences of systemic racism with loss of resources, political instability limiting structural resources, and language-limited accessibility. These were exacerbated by the loss of family supports due to immigration related family-child separation including deportations and staggered parent–child migration. Having experienced intergenerational trauma and systemic oppression, mothers discussed their strategies for building family unity, instilling resilience in their children, and improving socioeconomic opportunities for their family.
Latina mothers shared the impacts of immigrant-related experiences on systemic inequities in the United States which are currently missing from the ACEs framework. Immigrant specific adverse events include language-limited accessibility, or family-child separations, and policies impacting structural resources for immigrant families. Mothers highlighted their capacity to build resilience in their children and buffer impacts of systemic racism. Community-tailored interventions can build on this foundation to reduce health disparities and promote health equity in this population.