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Parenting and Mental Health Promotion Practices of African Immigrants in Alberta

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  • Parenting practices are known predictors of child health and social outcomes. Yet very little is known about the parenting practices of African immigrants in Canada and their impact on child health and wellbeing, including mental health. This dearth of knowledge exists despite widespread understanding that black and African immigrant children experience some of the poorest mental health outcomes in Canada. Funded by the M.S.I. Foundation, this project was designed and implemented in Alberta to address this paucity of knowledge. The population of African immigrants in Alberta is rapidly increasing; understanding their parenting practices and challenges is a crucial step towards supporting child health in this growing community. Following ethics approval from the University of Alberta Health Research Ethics Board, we conducted interviews and focus groups over a 12-month period with a purposive sample of 76 stakeholders from diverse social and professional backgrounds. These participants included 32 African immigrant parents, 14 community leaders, 12 service providers and policymakers, and 18 focus group participants of varying backgrounds. All interviews and focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim prior to analysis. We employed a transnational feminist theoretical framework to aid our analysis and interpretation of the data. This theoretical lens allowed us to consider how culture, gender, race, class, and power converge to produce structural barriers to successful parenting among African immigrants. Our findings demonstrate how the pervasiveness of structural barriers affects access to income opportunities, parent–child relationships, parent–child communication, disciplinary practices, and support services. Our findings further demonstrate how these challenges and their multiple impacts on parenting practices, in turn, affect the mental, emotional, and material wellbeing of African immigrant children and their families. In this vein, we present policy recommendations that can help address some of the challenges identified, in particular the poor access to services. Some of our policy and practice recommendations include: (1) capitalizing on the strengths, resilience, and cultural values of African immigrant communities to engender successful parenting; (2) hiring African immigrants as service providers and policymakers to address cultural barriers to services; (3) addressing the social determinants of African immigrant child health, particularly income; (4) implementing mental health awareness programs in African immigrant communities; (5) improving access to culturally sensitive mental health and counselling services for immigrant families; and (6) providing pre-immigration counselling to families on the transitioning process, including on issues of child wellbeing. Implementation of these recommendations will transform institutional practices affecting African immigrant parenting and lead to improved child health and social outcomes.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International