Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 257–267 | Cite as

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

  • Zhihuan Jennifer Huang
  • Frank Y. Wong
  • Cynthia R. Ronzio
  • Stella M. Yu
Original paper


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 



The authors wish to thank Drs. Michael Kogan and Gopal Singh, in the Office of Data and Program Development, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) of HRSA for their comments on the earlier draft of this article. We are grateful for the IPA funding for Dr. Huang to work on the manuscript from the Office of Data and Program Development, MCHB/HRSA. And the access to ECLS-B 9 month data provided by the MCHB and Department of Education.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhihuan Jennifer Huang
    • 1
  • Frank Y. Wong
    • 1
  • Cynthia R. Ronzio
    • 2
  • Stella M. Yu
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of International Health, School of Nursing and Health StudiesGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Children’s National Medical CenterWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Research & Demonstration BranchDRTE/MCHB/HRSARockvilleUSA

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