Original paper

Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 257-267

First online:

Depressive Symptomatology and Mental Health Help-Seeking Patterns of U.S.- and Foreign-Born Mothers

  • Zhihuan Jennifer HuangAffiliated withDepartment of International Health, School of Nursing and Health Studies, Georgetown University Email author 
  • , Frank Y. WongAffiliated withDepartment of International Health, School of Nursing and Health Studies, Georgetown University
  • , Cynthia R. RonzioAffiliated withChildren’s National Medical Center
  • , Stella M. YuAffiliated withResearch & Demonstration Branch, DRTE/MCHB/HRSA

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Objectives: This report presents the national estimates of maternal depressive symptomatology prevalence and its socio-demographic correlates among major racial/ethnic-nativity groups in the United States. We also examined the relationship of mental health-seeking patterns by race/ethnicity and nativity. Methods: Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey-Birth Cohort Nine-month data, we present the distribution of Center for Epidemiological Study-Depression (CES-D) score by new mothers’ nativity and race/ethnicity. The mental health-seeking pattern study was limited to mothers with moderate to severe symptoms. Weighted prevalence and 95% confidence intervals for depression score categories were presented by race/ethnic groups and nativity. Multi-variable logistic regression was used to obtain the adjusted odds ratios of help-seeking patterns by race/ethnicity and nativity in mothers with moderate to severe symptoms. Results: Compared to foreign-born mothers, mothers born in the U.S. were more likely to have moderate to severe depressive symptoms in every racial/ethnic group except for Asian/Pacific Islanders. These US-born mothers were also more likely to be teenagers, lack a partner at home, and live in rural areas. Among Asians, Filipina mothers had the highest rate of severe depressive symptoms (9.6%), similar to those of US-born black mothers (10.2%). Racial/ethnic minorities and foreign-born mothers were less likely to consult doctors (OR: 2.2 to 2.5) or think they needed consultation (OR: 1.9 to 2.2) for their emotional problems compare to non-Hispanic White mothers. Conclusion: Our research suggests that previous “global estimates” on Asian American mental health underestimated sub-ethnic group differences. More efforts are needed to overcome the barriers in mental health services access and utilizations, especially in minority and foreign-born populations.


Maternal depression Racial/ethnic minority Foreign-born CES-D