Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 33, Issue 8, pp 587–596 | Cite as

Action Research at the Intersection of Structural and Family Violence in an Immigrant Latino Community: a Youth-Led Study

  • Rebecca RodriguezEmail author
  • R. Lillianne. Macias
  • Reyna Perez-Garcia
  • Griselda Landeros
  • Aida Martinez
Original Article


The current study addresses the lack of research exploring the social and emotional impact of anti-immigrant policy on Latino communities, and the intersection of anti-immigrant climates with other family stressors, like domestic violence (DV). In this paper we describe a qualitative study led by the participatory action research group La Voz Juvenile de Caminar Latino. Youth researchers conducted semi-structured interviews with Latino men, women, and youth participating in a domestic violence program. Using an inductive approach to thematic analysis, researchers identified themes that reflect how Latino families with histories of DV experience an increasingly anti-immigrant climate. All participants in this study described emotional stress, fear, and restrictions in their day-to-day life attributed to the anti-immigrant sociopolitical climate, and adults also spoke to work-related stress and economic insecurity. Both adults and children described harassment by strangers, coworkers, and/or peers. With regard to DV, women tended to describe immigration stress as exasperating family conflict, while men viewed these external stressors as discouraging DV. Distrust of police and other formal supports was a key theme underlying adult and youth perceptions of help-seeking for DV. The findings of this study suggest that anti-immigrant sentiment and policy creates undue stress for Latino families and barriers to formal help-seeking for DV. The participatory research process provided a corrective experience for youth witnesses of DV and prioritizes the voices of those most affected by immigration policies and violence.


Domestic violence Hispanic Latino Participatory action research Policy Immigration Youth 



The researchers would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their contributions to earlier versions of this paper: Josephine V. Serrata, Ph.D., National Latino Network for Healthy Families and Communities, Casa de Esperanza; Alvina Rosales, Ph.D. Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and Julia Perilla, Ph.D., Georgia State University.


  1. Amsden, J., & Van Wynsberghe, R. (2016). Community mapping as a research tool with youth. Action Research, 3(4), 357–381. Scholar
  2. Androff, D. K., Ayón, C., Becerra, D., Gurrola, M., Moya Salas, L., Krysik, J., Gerdes, K., & Segal, E. (2011). U.S. immigration policy and immigrant children's well-being: The impact of policy shifts. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 38(1), 77–98.Google Scholar
  3. Ayón, C. (2017). “Vivimos en Jaula de Oro”: The impact of state-level legislation on immigrant Latino families. Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 1–21.Google Scholar
  4. Ayón, C., & Philbin, S. P. (2017). “Tú no Eres de Aquí”: Latino Children's experiences of institutional and interpersonal discrimination and microaggressions. Social Work Research.
  5. Berk, M. L., & Schur, C. L. (2001). The effect of fear on access to care among undocumented Latino immigrants. Journal of Immigrant Health, 3(3), 151–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bosma, L. M., Orozco, L., Barriga, C. C., Rosas-Lee, M., & Sieving, R. E. (2017). Promoting resilience during adolescence. Youth & Society.
  7. Brabeck, K. M., Lykes, M. B., Hunter, C. & Hershberg, R. (2011-2014). Framing immigration to and deportation from the United States: Guatemalan and Salvadoran families make meaning of their experiences. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(5), 496–505.Google Scholar
  8. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burke, J. G., Hess, S., Hoffmann, K., Guizzetti, L., Loy, E., Gielen, A., Bailey, M., Walnoha, A., Barbee, G., & Yonas, M. (2013). Translating community-based participatory research principles into practice. Progress in Community Health Partnerships, 7(2), 115–122. Scholar
  10. Cahill, C. (2010). ‘Why do they hate us?’ Reframing immigration through participatory action research. Area, 42(2), 152–161. Scholar
  11. Dasgupta, S. D. (2008). Women's realities: Defining violence against women by immigration, race, and class. In N. J. Sokoloff (Ed.), Domestic violence at the margins: Readings on race, class, gender, and culture (pp. 56–70). New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Duke, N. N., Pettingell, S. L., McMorris, B. J., & Borowsky, I. W. (2010). Adolescent violence perpetration: Associations with multiple types of adverse childhood experiences. Pediatrics, 125(4), 778–786.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dutton, M. A., Orloff, L., & Hass, G. A. (2000). Characteristics of help-seeking behaviors, resources, and services of battered immigrant Latinas: Legal and policy implications. Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy, 7(2), 245–305.Google Scholar
  14. Dworski-Riggs, D., & Langhout, R. (2010). Elucidating the power in empowerment and the participation in participatory action research: A story about research team and elementary school change. American Journal of Community Psychology, 45(3–4), 215–230. Scholar
  15. Esses, V. M., Brochu, P. M., & Dickson, K. R. (2012). Economic costs, economic benefits, and attitudes toward immigrants and immigration. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 12(1), 133–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Glass, N., Perrin, N., Hanson, G., Mankowski, E., Bloom, T., & Campbell, J. (2009). Patterns of parterns’ abusive behavior as reported by Latina and non-Latina survivors. Journal of Community Psychology, 37(2), 156–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gupta, J., Acevedo-Garcia, D., Hemenway, D., Decker, M. R., Raj, A., & Silverman, J. G. (2009). Pre-immigration exposure to political violence and perpetration of intimate partner violence among immigrant men in Boston. American Journal of Public Health, 99(3), 462–469.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gurrola, M., Ayon, C., & Salas, L. M. (2016). Mexican adolescents’ education and hopes in an anti-immigrant environment: The perspectives of first- and second- generation youth and parents. Journal of Family Issues, 37(4), 494–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hagan, J., Rodriguez, N., & Castro, B. (2011). Social effects on mass deportations by the United States government: 2000-2010. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 34(8), 1374–1391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hancock, T. U., Ames, N., & Behnke, A. O. (2014). Protecting rural church-going immigrant women from family violence. Journal of Family Violence, 29(3), 323–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Homeland Security Advisory Council. (2011). Task force on secure communities: Findings and recommendations. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved from
  22. Ingram, M. (2007). A comparison of help seeking between Latino and non-Latino victims of intimate partner violence. Violence Against Women, 13(2), 159–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Langhout, R., & Thomas, E. (2010). Imagining participatory action research in collaboration with children: An introduction. American Journal of Community Psychology, 46(1–2), 60–66. Scholar
  24. Massey, D. S., & Bartley, K. (2005). The changing legal status distribution of immigrants: A caution. International Migration Review, 39(2), 469–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nakamura, D. (2017). Trump administration issues new immigration enforcement priorities, says goal is not “mass deportations.” Washington Post. Retrieved from
  26. Passel, J. S. (2006). The size and characteristics of the unauthorized migrant population in the U.S.: Estimates based on the March 2005 current population survey. Washington, DC: Pew research Center’s Hispanic trends project.Google Scholar
  27. Provine, D. M., & Sanchez, G. (2011). Suspecting immigrants: Exploring links between racialised anxieties and expanded police powers in Arizona. Policing and Society, 21(4), 468–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rennison, C. M. (2010). An investigation of reporting violence to the police: A focus on Hispanic victims. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(4), 390–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Rodriguez, R., Perez-Garcia, R. A., Martinez, A. Y., & Serrata, J. L. (2015). Latina/o youth researchers: Responding to violence through research and action. Latina/o Psychology Today, 2(1), 12–16.Google Scholar
  30. Salas, L. M., Ayón, C., & Gurrola, M. (2013). Estamos traumados: The effect of anti-immigrant sentiment and policies on the mental health of Mexican immigrant families. Journal of Community Psychology, 41(8), 1005–1020.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Serrata, J. V., Macias, R. L., Rosales, A., Hernandez-Martinez, M., Rodriguez, R., & Perilla, J. L. (2017). Expanding evidence-based practice models for domestic violence initiatives: A community-centered approach. Psychology of Violence, 7(1), 158–165. Retrieved from: CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Streng, J. M., Rhodes, S., Ayala, G., Eng, E., Arceo, R., & Phipps, S. (2004). Realidad Latina: Latino adolescents, their school, and a university use photovoice to examine and address the influence of immigration. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 18(4), 403–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Taylor, P., Hugo Lopez, M., Passel, J. S., & Motel, S. (2011). Unauthorized immigrants: Length of residency, patterns of parenthood. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project. Retrieved from
  34. Toomey, R. B., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Williams, D. R., Harvey-Mendoza, E., Jahromi, L. B., & Updegraff, K. A. (2014). Impact of Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration law on utilization of health care and public assistance among Mexican-origin adolescent mothers and their mother figures. American Journal of Public Health, 104(1), S28–S34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. van der Velde, J., Williamson, D. L., & Ogilvie, L. D. (2009). Participatory action research: Practical strategies for actively engaging and maintaining participation in immigrant and refugee communities. Qualitative Health Research, 19(9), 1293–1302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Vidales, G., Day, K. M., & Powe, M. (2009). Police and immigration enforcement: Impacts on Latino (a) residents' perceptions of police. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 32(4), 631–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. White, K., Yeager, V. A., Menachemi, N., & Scarinci, I. C. (2014). Impact of Alabama’s immigration law on access to healthcare among Latina immigrants and children: Implications for national reform. American Journal of Public Health, 104(3), 397–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Yoshikawa, H., Kholoptseva, J., & Suárez-Orozco, C. (2013). The role of public policies and community-based organizations in the developmental consequences of parent undocumented status. Social Policy Report, 27(3), 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zarza, M. J., & Adler, R. G. (2008). Latina immigrant victims of interpersonal violence in New Jersey: A needs assessment study. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, & Trauma, 16(1), 22–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zayas, L. H. & Heffron, L. C. (2016). Disrupting young lives: How detention and deportation affect US-born children of immigrants. Children, youth, and families newsletter, November. APA.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities, Casa De EsperanzaSaint PaulUSA
  2. 2.University of New HavenWest HavenUSA
  3. 3.La Voz Juvenile, Caminar Latino Inc.DoravilleUSA

Personalised recommendations