“Vulnerable and Resilient:
Legal Status, Family Routines and Maternal Knowledge in Mexican and Central American-origin Families in Los Angeles


How do unauthorized immigrant parents promote family functioning to navigate challenging conditions and contexts in the United States? This article offers the first quantitative analyses contrasting the family organization and maternal knowledge of Mexican and Central-American immigrant mothers by legal status. Using Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey data with a sample of mothers of school aged
children, the analyses investigate whether mothers’ documentation status, origin country/region, and access to social and instrumental support are associated with the frequency of family dinners, the consistency of family routines, and the
knowledge of their child’s associations and friendships. Relative to their US-born and documented Mexican immigrant counterparts, undocumented Mexican immigrant
mothers have as many or more frequent family dinners, more predictable family routines, and the same level of knowledge about whom their child is with when not
at home. Whom mothers can rely on for emergency childcare and financial support also is linked with both family organization and levels of maternal knowledge about their child. More quantitative research is needed about how undocumented immigrant
parents actively employ different family functioning strategies to promote
strengths and resiliency in their lives in the midst of challenging contexts driven by lack of legal status.