Nursing study on Arab American family migration stress and its negative impact on infant well-being receives federal funding

While the number of immigrants from Arab countries to the U.S. has steadily increased over the past several years, family and child health research on this population remains scarce. To address this disparity, Dr. Dalia Khalil, principal investigator and WSU College of Nursing Assistant Professor, was recently awarded a two-year, $161,451 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. With the NICHHD funding, Dr. 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,” said Dr. Khalil. 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, that are 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 coparenting interaction with their baby, biological sample collection to measure levels of stress in the 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 Interim Dean Ramona Benkert. “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, Dr. Khalil’s study will be the first to examine associations of family migration-related stress, family resources and coparenting 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 Dr. Khalil.

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

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