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African Immigrant Parents’ Perspectives on the Factors Influencing Their Children’s Mental Health


African immigrant children experience some of the poorest mental health outcomes in Canada, yet limited research has systematically mental health determinants among this growing demographic. Our participatory action research project (PAR) explored, from the perspectives of parents, the factors influencing the mental health of African immigrant children in Alberta, Canada. The project utilized an intersectionality theoretical lens to collect and analyze data from a sample of 81 African immigrant parents who participated in nine conversation cafés and five focus groups. This PAR approach provided an ideal structure to engage parents and generate knowledge on the factors influencing their children’s mental health. Parents identified racial discrimination, limited mental health awareness, limited access to mental health supports, changing family dynamics, parental absenteeism, and unresolved pre-migration trauma as factors influencing their children’s mental health. These factors were perceived as contributing to children’s experiences of material deprivation, social problems, and emotional difficulties. Our findings suggest that interventions to overcome these factors and enhance the mental health of African immigrant children must target transformation of the family, community, and cultural systems within which their lives are embedded, as well as the policies and institutions that produce and reproduce child mental health vulnerabilities.


  • Racism was perceived as causing employment difficulties, material deprivation, low educational attainment, and emotional difficulties in children.

  • Changing family dynamics (e.g., marital divorce) resulting from resettlement pressures were perceived as a source of mental stress.

  • Unresolved pre-migration traumas were reported as a risk factor for mood swings, interpersonal difficulties, and illicit drug use.

  • Utilization of mental health supports was curtailed by stigma and limited mental health awareness.

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    Abdillahi and Shaw (2020) identified that although “64.0% of young Black women aged 12-17 reported their mental health to be ‘excellent or very good,’” they were still significantly disadvantaged when compared to “the 77.2% of young White women who reported excellent or very good mental health” (Government of Canada, 2020, p. 8).


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This research has been funded by the generous support of the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.

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Correspondence to Bukola Salami.

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Research Involving Human Participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the Research Ethics Committee at the University of Alberta (Ethics Approval No: Pro00080387).

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Salami, B., Alaazi, D.A., Ibrahim, S. et al. African Immigrant Parents’ Perspectives on the Factors Influencing Their Children’s Mental Health. J Child Fam Stud (2021).

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  • African immigrant
  • Alberta
  • Canada
  • Children
  • Mental Health
  • Participatory action research