December 20, 2010

Mexican women immigrants to the United States who experience abuse by a husband or boyfriend may seek mental health services, but the care they receive often falls short.


Nia Parson

“Many caregivers don’t fully understand the women’s cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds,” says Assistant Professor Nia Parson, a cultural and medical anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology in Dedman College.

In her research, Parson is looking at the specific needs of abused Mexican women immigrants seeking mental health care. Abused immigrant women, for example, may lack social and family networks or familiarity with social services, have language barriers or fear deportation, she says.

Parson has determined that caregivers who are familiar with Mexican women immigrants’ cultural needs recognize a patient’ particular situation, including challenges to successful recovery, as well as examine diversity of experiences within groups.

“Domestic violence research has been conducted over the past 40 years,” Parson says, “but we don’t have much specialized knowledge about how to address the mental health impacts in immigrant women. Medical anthropologists can contribute to knowledge about how to address mental health problems in diverse populations.”
– Margaret Allen