La Familia: methodological issues in the assessment of perinatal social support for Mexicanas living in the United States Academic Article uri icon


  • Do Mexicanas receive social support from a close network of family and friends during the perinatal period? To answer this question, a longitudinal ethnographic study followed 28 urban Mexican-origin women living in the US from their last trimester of pregnancy through their first month post-partum. A total of 93 interviews with Mexicanas focused on health and social support. All of the women lived in a large western city in the US but varied in their acculturation and income levels. Analyses identified four social support themes from women's experience (the emic analysis) and four social support typologies from the researcher (etic) analyses. The kinds of support women described as emanating from their support networks were inductively identified as Helping with Daily Hassles, Showing Love and Understanding, Being There for Me, and My Family Failing Me. Approximately half of the women reported densely supportive networks. The other women were disconnected from their support networks, or dealt with antagonism or instability in their networks. Women's perceptions of social support differed from the judgements made by the researcher about received support. Specifically, women perceived more network members in the supportive category than did the researcher by a factor of 1.4, and fewer network members in the disconnected category by a factor of 0.7. From an emic perspective, women listed only half as many antagonistic network members compared to the etic analysis (a factor of 0.50). These emic/etic discrepancies complicate clinical assessment of social support, but suggest that data on social support should be collected as part of the clinical processes of perinatal risking. To enhance assessment of social support, a clinically relevant guide is proposed for use by practitioners caring for Mexicanas in the perinatal period.

publication date

  • November 2001