Maternal separation and bonding, perceived social support, anxiety and depression in Caribbean immigrant college students

Joan Antoinette Malcolm, Fordham University


Maternal bonding and separation in childhood, perceived social support, depression and anxiety in adulthood are assessed for a nonclinical group of Caribbean immigrants living in New York City. Caribbean migration is female-dominated, leading to frequent mother-child separations. Previous studies indicate care and overprotection are principal dimensions of the parent-child bond and that poor care and high overprotection are related to higher levels of both anxiety and depression (Parker, Tupling & Brown, 1979). Perceived adequacy of support is considered the mechanism for early attachment and perceived social support in adulthood (Sarason, Levine, Basham & Sarason, 1986). Perceived social support has been demonstrated to be negatively related to anxiety and depression (Procidano, 1992). The present study examined relationships among care, overprotection, perceived social support, anxiety and depression for 102 predominantly black, Caribbean immigrants. Maternal separation and surrogate care were also addressed. Maternal care was negatively related to anxiety and depression and positively related to perceived social support from family. Maternal overprotection was positively related to anxiety and depression. Perceived social support from family was negatively related to depression, but not anxiety. The prediction regarding a negative relationship between length of separation from mother and maternal care was not supported. The present study's results support other findings that it is the quality of the mother-child bond and not separation per se, which predicts affective disturbance (Tennant, 1988). Participants reported adequate care by their mothers and maternal surrogates. In addition, the practice of child lending in the Caribbean (Gopaul-McNicol, 1993) may have affected participants' adaptation to separation as a result of immigration. Cultural factors are also considered in this study's finding of higher levels of overprotection than in comparable studies. This investigation confirms previous research indicating that early care predicted social support from family in adulthood (Sarason, Sarason & Shearin, 1986). The role of perceived social support in reducing vulnerability to depression (Procidano, 1992) is also confirmed. The present study provides new information about Caribbean immigrants and recommends clinical interventions including the examination of early parenting experiences and patients' current capacity for satisfying relationships.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Developmental psychology|Social psychology|Educational sociology|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|African Americans

Recommended Citation

Malcolm, Joan Antoinette, "Maternal separation and bonding, perceived social support, anxiety and depression in Caribbean immigrant college students" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9542373.