Researchers assess impact of family migration on infant well-being

Children's Health

While the number of immigrants from Arab countries to the United States has steadily increased over the past several years, family and child health research on this population remains scarce. To address this disparity, Dalia Khalil, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor in Wayne State University’s College of Nursing, was recently awarded a two-year, $161,451 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health. Khalil and her team will expand on her previous research on immigrant Arab American parents and families.

In my previous studies, immigrant Arab American postpartum women reported high levels of acculturative stress and depressive symptoms.”

Dalia Khalil, Ph.D., RN, Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Wayne State University

Others have found an association between maternal stress level and stress biomarkers in infants.

“We expect to find that higher levels of family migration stress will have a negative impact on infant well-being.”

Arab American families that include a married father and mother with an infant will be recruited from the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services-Women, Infant and Children program (ACCESS-WIC), OBGYN clinic and a pediatric clinic, which are all located in Dearborn, Michigan. Dearborn is home to the largest population of families of Arab descent in the U.S. Data collection will include self-report questionnaires, objective observation of mother-father co-parenting interaction with their baby, biological sample collection to measure levels of stress in infants, and an objective assessment of the infant’s development using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, 4th Edition.

“Dr. Khalil’s research is critical to improving family and child health in this vulnerable community,” said Ramona Benkert, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Nursing. “Nearly 94% of immigrants from Arab countries live in metropolitan areas such as Detroit; making an impact on health outcomes and health disparities locally and beyond is a core tenet of the WSU College of Nursing.”

Using an innovative approach, Khalil’s study will be the first to examine associations of family migration-related stress, family resources and co-parenting with infant’s biological measures of stress such as hair cortisol and salivary telomere length.

“The findings will be helpful in developing more effective, nuanced and empirically grounded early intervention strategies to increase resilience in immigrant population,” said Khalil.

The award number for this National Institutes of Health grant is HD101662.

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