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Discrimination in Mexican American adolescents: : examining processes that minimize negative adjustment outcomes

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Recent reports have indicated that there are both mental health and educational disparities between Latino youth and their European American counterparts. Specifically, Latin youth are at a heightened risk for

Recent reports have indicated that there are both mental health and educational disparities between Latino youth and their European American counterparts. Specifically, Latin youth are at a heightened risk for negative mental health outcomes in comparison to their non-Latino youth (e.g., Eaton et al., 2008). Further, 16.7% of Latino adolescents dropped out of high school compared to 5.3% of European American youth over the past several decades (1960-2011; U.S. Department of Education, 2013). Mexican American (M.A. youth in particular, have the lowest educational attainment among all Latino ethnic groups in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). While these mental health and educational disparities have often been attributed to discrimination experiences that Latino youth encounter, there is also consistent empirical evidence linking discrimination with these maladjustment problems. These studies confirmed that discrimination directly related to depressive symptoms (e.g., Umana-Taylor et al., 2007), externalizing behaviors (Berkel et al., 2010), self-esteem (e.g., Zeiders et al., 2013), and academic outcomes (e.g., Umana-Taylor et al., 2012). Few studies to date have examined the underlying mechanisms (i.e., moderation and mediation) that help us to better understand resiliency paths for those Latino youth that display positive adjustment outcomes despite being faced with similar discrimination encounters that their maladjusted peers face. Therefore, the following two studies examined various mechanisms in which discrimination related to adjustment to better understand potential risk and resiliency processes in hopes of informing intervention research. Paper 1 explored cultural influences on the association between discrimination, active coping, and mental health outcomes in M.A. youth. Paper 2 examined how trajectories of discrimination across 5th, 7th, and 10th grades related to cultural values, externalizing behaviors, and academic outcomes in M.A. youth. Taken together, these studies provide a culturally informed overview of adjustment processes in M.A. adolescents who face discrimination in addition to identifying critical directions for future research in efforts to gaining a more contextualized and comprehensive understanding of the dynamic processes involved in discrimination and adjustment in M.A. youth.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Biculturalism, mental health, and the cultural environment: a longitudinal approach to examining the person-environment fit hypothesis

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Twenty-five percent of Americans are first- or second-generation immigrants (US Census, 2012). Thus, it is likely that many Americans identify with at least two cultures, that of the mainstream United

Twenty-five percent of Americans are first- or second-generation immigrants (US Census, 2012). Thus, it is likely that many Americans identify with at least two cultures, that of the mainstream United States culture, and their ethnic culture from which they came, making them bicultural. However, current understanding of the impact of biculturalism on psychological functioning is quite limited in scope, as few studies have examined this association longitudinally or considered the moderating role of the cultural environment. The present study proposed to take a more comprehensive approach in understanding the consequences of biculturalism on psychological outcomes (i.e., depression, anxiety, and substance abuse symptoms) among Mexican American adolescents, as they belong to one of largest and fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States (US Census, 2013). The present study had two major goals. The first was to examine the influence of biculturalism on depression, anxiety, and substance abuse symptoms longitudinally over the course of two years. It was hypothesized that overall, biculturalism will lead to less depression, anxiety, and substance abuse symptoms. The results partially supported these predictions. For males, biculturalism was related to significantly fewer anxiety symptoms, but not for females. Further, no main effects of biculturalism were found for depression and substance abuse for males or females. The second goal of the study was to examine the potential moderating role of the cultural environment on the influence of biculturalism on mental health symptoms. It was hypothesized that bicultural individuals will exhibit less mental health symptoms in bicultural environments (person-environment fit) compared to more monocultural individuals (person-environment misfit). However, no differences are expected to ii emerge between bicultural and monocultural individuals in monocultural environments, as both groups should be well adapted in these settings. The results did not fully support these predictions. Though, biculturalism for male adolescents was related to significantly fewer anxiety symptoms in home environments where parents reported moderate degrees of biculturalism, and females' biculturalism was related to significantly fewer depression symptoms in neighborhood environments that were relatively bicultural; no effects of biculturalism were found in environments that were the most bicultural. The implications of the findings are discussed.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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An examination of Mexican American adolescent and adult romantic relationships

Description

This dissertation examined Mexican American individuals' romantic relationships within two distinct developmental periods, adolescence and adulthood. Study 1 used latent class analysis to explore whether 12th grade Mexican Americans' (N

This dissertation examined Mexican American individuals' romantic relationships within two distinct developmental periods, adolescence and adulthood. Study 1 used latent class analysis to explore whether 12th grade Mexican Americans' (N = 218) romantic relationship characteristics, cultural values, and gender created unique romantic relationship profiles. Results suggested a three-class solution: higher quality, satisfactory quality, and lower quality romantic relationships. Subsequently, associations between profiles and adolescents' adjustment variables were examined via regression analyses. Adolescents with higher and satisfactory quality romantic relationships reported greater future family expectations, higher self-esteem, and fewer externalizing symptoms than adolescents with lower quality romantic relationships. Similarly, adolescents with higher quality romantic relationships reported greater academic self-efficacy and fewer sexual partners than adolescents with lower quality romantic relationships. Finally, adolescents with higher quality romantic relationships also reported greater future family expectations and higher academic self-efficacy than adolescents with satisfactory quality romantic relationships. To summarize, results suggested that adolescents engaged in three unique types of romantic relationships with higher quality being most optimal for their adjustment. Study 2 used latent growth modeling to examine marital partners' (N = 466) intra- and inter-individual changes of acculturative stress, depressive symptoms, and marital quality. On average across the seven years, husbands' acculturative stress remained steady, but wives' significantly decreased; partners' depressive symptoms remained relatively steady, but their marital quality significantly decreased. Although partners' experiences of acculturative stress were less similar than their experiences of depressive symptoms and marital quality, overall their experiences were interconnected. Significant spillover and crossover effects emerged between partners' initial levels of acculturative stress and depressive symptoms and between depressive symptoms and marital quality. Moreover, changes in husbands' depressive symptoms were negatively associated with changes in their marital quality. Overall, results suggested that partners' experiences were interconnected across time.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Environmental risks, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and mental health symptomatology in Mexican American youth: a two-study approach

Description

In this dissertation Mexican American (MA) youths environmental risk contexts, HPA axis functioning and mental health symptomatology were investigated in two separate studies. In the first study, environmental risk contexts

In this dissertation Mexican American (MA) youths environmental risk contexts, HPA axis functioning and mental health symptomatology were investigated in two separate studies. In the first study, environmental risk contexts were examined utilizing a person-centered approach and focusing on MA adolescents' family, peer, and cultural risk factors in fifth grade (N = 750). Environmental contexts were then linked to mental health symptomatology in seventh grade. Results revealed three distinct environmental contexts: Low risk, Moderate risk-language, and High risk-peer. Youth in the High-risk peer context reported the highest levels of symptomatology; greater major depressive disorder (MDD), anxiety, conduct disorder (CD)/oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) symptoms than youth experiencing Low risk or Moderate risk-language context. Females, in particular, experiencing the High risk peer context appeared at greatest risk for MDD symptoms. Finally, adolescents in the Moderate risk-language context displayed similar levels of symptoms to the individuals in the Low risk context, with the exception of higher anxiety. This study suggested that MA youth live in unique environmental contexts and these contexts are differentially related to mental health symptomatology. In the second study, 98 MA youth participated in a three-day diurnal cortisol protocol in hopes of linking perceptions of discrimination and HPA diurnal cortisol rhythms. Results revealed that discrimination was related to greater overall cortisol output and marginally related to the cortisol awakening response and evening levels of cortisol. Results suggest that important physiological processes underlie the experiences of discrimination.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2011