SSWR Doctoral Student Spotlight

The SSWR Doctoral Student Members Task Force is launching a new series featuring research conducted by doctoral students. The series is intended to bring awareness and attention to the research being done by social work doctoral students, as well as important issues in the field. One spotlight piece will be featured each week on the SSWR Doctoral Student Member Blog & Facebook Page during the fall 2018 semester. 


Abigail Palmer Molina

Abigail Palmer Molina

Low-Income Mothers' Perceptions of Help-Seeking for Depression: A Thematic, Discourse Analysis by Language Group

Student Researcher: Abigail Palmer Molina, University of Southern California

About the Researcher: I am a third year PhD student and my research aims to promote the wellbeing of low-income young children and families, particularly by advocating for the expansion of two-generation programs. My research also examines how parental mental health and emotion regulation impact parenting and treatment engagement among low-income families.

Description of the Study: Maternal depression poses a threat to the well-being of poor minority mothers and their young children, yet disparities remain in treatment utilization among this population. Providing group treatment in early childhood settings may address this concern, but researchers must explore potential barriers to engagement, particularly those related to cultural/linguistic differences.

Inspiration for the Study: Among Head Start families, 38% identify as Hispanic and 25% report that Spanish is their primary language, so it is important to understand the perceptions of this particular group.

Methodological Approach: Focus groups were conducted to explore perceptions of help-seeking among English and Spanish-speaking mothers of Head Start children. Thematic and discourse analysis strategies were used to examine differences across groups.

Findings: Results revealed divergent beliefs about causes of depression and striking differences in the processes of group formation across language groups. Spanish-speaking groups engaged in self-disclosure and mutual support, enabling the development of rapport, whereas English-speaking groups engaged in less supportive talk, and used more techniques to distance themselves emotionally.

Implications: Findings demonstrate the importance of providing safe spaces for Spanish-speaking mothers to seek and offer support to one another, particularly due to participants’ experiences of social isolation. Findings also support the development of flexible group interventions and indicate that interventions should address participants’ experiences of poverty and other stressors.

Questions or comments for Abigail? Email her: acpalmer@usc.edu