Thesis

A Comparison of Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in the Assessment of Internalizing Behaviors in Preschool-Aged Children from Mexican Farmworker Families

Evidence suggests that internalizing behaviors (e.g., anxiety, irritability, sadness) emerge early in childhood. However, very few researchers have investigated these behaviors in vulnerable preschool-aged (3-6-year-old) children from Mexican/Mexican American farmworker families. This population may be at an increased risk for poor mental health due to chronic exposure to risk factors associated with farmwork. In addition, the utility of standard measures of child psychopathology in such samples is unclear. Evidence suggests there may be cultural differences in the description and expression of internalizing behaviors in young children. The current study aimed to examine mental health in preschool-aged children from Mexican/Mexican-American farmworker families. Mothers (N = 100) completed measures of child internalizing behavior (affective [i.e., mood] and anxiety problems; Child Behavior Checklist; CBCL) and impairment (Impairment Rating Scale; IRS). In addition, a culturally sensitive semi-structured qualitative interview was used to assess parent-reported behaviors of child internalizing behaviors. CBCL mood and anxiety problems were found to be associated with child impairment. When examining the association between quantitative and qualitative data, CBCL mood problems were associated with qualitative interview mood scores, whereas CBCL anxiety problems were not associated with interview anxiety scores. In addition, the number of years the mother has spent in the U.S. did not moderate the relationship between CBCL and interview scores. Qualitative analyses showed that CBCL mood items and qualitative themes derived from the interviews overlap in some mother-reported behaviors (e.g., crying, decreased energy levels). However, other behaviors such as social withdrawal and somatic symptoms were endorsed by mothers as depressive symptoms on the interview but were not mood items on the CBCL. Qualitative analyses also showed that CBCL anxiety items generally did not align with themes endorsed by mothers in the interviews. Thus the CBCL anxiety scale may not be culturally appropriate for this particular community of preschool-aged children of Mexican farmworker families. By identifying culturally relevant emotional problems in this group as well as highlighting methodological and thematic overlap with and differences between standard and qualitative measures, this study can provide important information to drive culturally competent health care, policies, prevention, and interventions for children from farmworker families.

Evidence suggests that internalizing behaviors (e.g., anxiety, irritability, sadness) emerge early in childhood. However, very few researchers have investigated these behaviors in vulnerable preschool-aged (3-6-year-old) children from Mexican/Mexican American farmworker families. This population may be at an increased risk for poor mental health due to chronic exposure to risk factors associated with farmwork. In addition, the utility of standard measures of child psychopathology in such samples is unclear. Evidence suggests there may be cultural differences in the description and expression of internalizing behaviors in young children. The current study aimed to examine mental health in preschool-aged children from Mexican/Mexican-American farmworker families. Mothers (N = 100) completed measures of child internalizing behavior (affective [i.e., mood] and anxiety problems; Child Behavior Checklist; CBCL) and impairment (Impairment Rating Scale; IRS). In addition, a culturally sensitive semi-structured qualitative interview was used to assess parent-reported behaviors of child internalizing behaviors. CBCL mood and anxiety problems were found to be associated with child impairment. When examining the association between quantitative and qualitative data, CBCL mood problems were associated with qualitative interview mood scores, whereas CBCL anxiety problems were not associated with interview anxiety scores. In addition, the number of years the mother has spent in the U.S. did not moderate the relationship between CBCL and interview scores. Qualitative analyses showed that CBCL mood items and qualitative themes derived from the interviews overlap in some mother-reported behaviors (e.g., crying, decreased energy levels). However, other behaviors such as social withdrawal and somatic symptoms were endorsed by mothers as depressive symptoms on the interview but were not mood items on the CBCL. Qualitative analyses also showed that CBCL anxiety items generally did not align with themes endorsed by mothers in the interviews. Thus the CBCL anxiety scale may not be culturally appropriate for this particular community of preschool-aged children of Mexican farmworker families. By identifying culturally relevant emotional problems in this group as well as highlighting methodological and thematic overlap with and differences between standard and qualitative measures, this study can provide important information to drive culturally competent health care, policies, prevention, and interventions for children from farmworker families.

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