Behavioral functioning among mexican-origin children: The roles of parental legal status and the neighborhood context

Aggie J. Noah, Nancy S. Landale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


Research on behavioral functioning among Mexican-origin children primarily uses an individual-centered approach that ignores the residential context. In addition, most studies have been unable to consider an important measure of inequality for this population, legal status; and mental health of children with undocumented parents is underexplored. We address these gaps by investigating the influence of parental legal status and neighborhood characteristics on Mexican-origin children's behavioral functioning using a multilevel approach. We use data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Study and 2000 decennial census. Our primary focus is variation in internalizing and externalizing behavior problems among Mexican-origin youth (N=2,535) with mothers who are undocumented, documented or naturalized citizens, or US-born using multilevel models. The multilevel results show the importance of considering parental legal status. Mexican children of unauthorized mothers are more likely to exhibit internalizing and externalizing problems than all other groups of Mexican children. Furthermore, neighborhood-concentrated disadvantage is significantly associated with internalizing behavior problems, and neighborhoodconcentrated affluence is significantly associated with externalizing behavior problems. In short, the results demonstrate the importance of considering both parental legal status and neighborhood contexts for understanding behavior problems of Mexican-origin children. Our findings suggest that Mexican children's mental health outcomes measured by internalizing and externalizing behavior problems vary significantly by parental legal status and neighborhood contexts. This study provides important nuances for public policy for health care prevention and interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-248
Number of pages18
JournalResearch in the Sociology of Health Care
StatePublished - 2017



  • behavior problems
  • immigrant
  • Legal status
  • neighborhoods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)

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