Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches and Lectures


Lifted Weight or Added Burden? Understanding the Complexities of Social Support within Underserved Communities

Event Location / Date(s)

Ottawa, Canada

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Presentation Date


Conference Name / Publication Title

2017 Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) Biennial Conference Program


This mixed methods study (N = 27) seeks to better understand social connections among low-income, ethnic minority and immigrant parents. Parents were Haitian (n = 12) and Latino/a (n = 15), and participated in English, Spanish, or Creole. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were translated/transcribed, coded by two coders using a structured coding scheme (agreement > 70%), and summarized into Family Memos. Codes included sources and types of support, advantages and disadvantages of support seeking, and lack of support. Parents also completed the Parenting Social Support Scale (Telleen et al., 1989), which assesses social support need, availability and satisfaction for emotional and instrumental support domains. Qualitative results indicated ethnic and language differences in primary sources of social support. Haitian (Creole) mothers overwhelmingly reported faith-based support (e.g., God, pastors, church friends); Haitian (English) and Latino (Spanish) parents cited family and friends, followed by faith-based and (for Latinos only) community-based support (e.g., school personnel, psychologists, police); and Latino (English) parents overwhelmingly reported lacking support. Quantitative results indicated that mothers reported moderate to great need for support, considerable need-availability gaps, and (at times) low satisfaction with support; these varied by domains and ethnicity. Qualitative data on perceived advantages and disadvantages of social support was used to better understand need-availability gaps. Participants felt supported when others listened, understood and encouraged them; were affectionate, made them laugh and feel connected; shared advice; provided childcare, food and money; and supported their children. Disadvantages included reciprocity expectations; emotional burden (both provider and recipient); lack of comfort; fear of judgment and unsolicited advice; immigration-related disruptions in support; and financial burdens when seeking community resources. Several participants noted that their social networks were simply not in a position to help them. Parents’ perspectives can help us better understand and address need-availability gaps in support and bolster an important, underutilized indigenous resource.