Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing



First Advisor

Diane C. Martins


Latina mothers are part of a rapidly growing ethnic minority group in the United States (U.S.). Researchers have largely illuminated their challenges and problems in their immigration process. A problem-oriented approach leads to labeling of the individual based on vulnerabilities, pathologies, and deficits. Nursing needs a greater emphasis on the strengths perspective, empirical studies, and a broader culturally based conception of strengths, including Latina mothers who immigrate to the U.S. A strengths perspective would be beneficial in encompassing Latina mothers’ capabilities and potentialities.

Focused ethnography was used to identify and describe the strengths of Latina mothers who immigrated to the U.S. and to understand how strengths were learned and acquired. Participants included Latina mothers in an Early Head Start program in an urban area in New England. Phase I, the preparatory phase, involved locating self, selecting and gaining initial entry to the setting, and developing trusting relationships with agency staff. Phase II, the participant observation and interview phase, included participant observation in play groups and two separate semi-structured in-depth interviews with nine Latina mothers. The adult mothers emigrated from rural and urban areas within Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic, and predominantly immigrated to the U.S. within the last 6 years, and were willing to volunteer and share their experiences. Data were analyzed according to three immigration stages (premigration and departure, transit, and resettlement). Strengths were identified individually and across participants, coded and grouped by major categories and subcategories.

Fifteen categories of strengths were identified. One related to the willingness and ability of all participants to describe what they were thinking, feeling and doing across the immigration experience. Additional 5 strengths during premigration and departure: Being aware of limited life opportunities, enduring poverty, enduring abuse and neglect, reaching out for a better life, and having a moral compass, hope and faith. Additional 4 strengths in the transit stage: Recognizing danger and trying to stay safe, having the physical prowess and mental ability to endure, asserting self and reaching out for help, and calling on God. Lastly, 3 strengths amid resettlement: Dealing with family separation and reunification, adapting to a new life, and living life with a moral compass. Most participants were unaware of how their strengths were learned or acquired. Participants who experienced abuse as a child and with no positive role model moved away from these negative experiences and aimed at being good, loving mothers by trial and error. The findings serve as a basis for further in-depth understanding of the strengths of Latina mothers who immigrate to the U.S. and illuminate the value and applicability of the strengths perspective in nursing. The strengths perspective has the potential to create a socially just environment for Latina mothers living in the U.S.



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