The ripple effects of immigration-related stress: Learning from Bangladeshi families


Pictured: A portion of the outreach flyer used for this study, with recruitment taking place in grocery stores and other community settings in NYC.


We are excited to share our latest publication, “Stressors, legal vulnerability and Bangladeshi parent and child well-being in New York City,” which documents how Bangladeshi parents’ experience of legal vulnerability negatively impacts themselves and their children. As more and more research explores the way immigrant families with precarious legal status are impacted by the aggressive anti-immigration climate of the last decade, this study adds to our understanding of health and mental health in an understudied population that grows larger every day.

This study adds to our understanding of health and mental health in an understudied population that grows larger every day.

To our knowledge, this is the first study of its kind for Bangladeshi immigrant families in the U.S. We found that, even accounting for financial stress and the stress of adapting to this new environment, immigration-related stressors explained significant variance in parent-reported symptoms of depression, tension, sleep issues and child mental health indicators. We demonstrate that legal status and immigration are important social determinants of health — and that Bangladeshi immigrant health can be shaped by their experience and perception of discrimination, legal vulnerability, and financial stressors.


Using principles of community-based participatory research, we intentionally designed the study to incorporate community voices. The study team consisted of a Bangladeshi co-investigator and staff members and utilized a community advisory board. As the Bangladeshi co-investigator, it felt vital to incorporate the insight from local Bangladeshi community organizers in shaping everything from our recruitment to our measures . This approach — in which members of the population being studied designed and implemented the study itself — was critical to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers. It provided me insight outside of the academic context into the lives of fellow Bangladeshis, who had immigration, financial and acculturation stressors I did not.


This study was carried out at a uniquely vulnerable time. With the 2016 presidential election emboldening anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhethoric, rapidly changing immigration policies, and greater enforcement capacity of ICE and the private prison corporation lobby, immigrant communities were experiencing increased anxiety, hyper-vigilance and stress. This study brings attention to the health problems caused by families’ legal vulnerability. By continuing to challenge dominant narratives — including the model minority myth and misperceptions about Asian immigrant health — we can advocate for better outcomes for underserved communities, push for more culturally responsive legal and mental health resources, secure more funding for existing community-based advocacy, and more.


Read the full article: “Stressors, legal vulnerability and Bangladeshi parent and child well-being in New York City” in Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, by R. Gabriela Barajas-Gonzales, Keng-Yen Huang, Sharmin Hoque, Farzana Karim, Abushale Shakir, and Sabrina Cheng.


Sharmin Hoque is a Program Coordinator at ParentCorps.