The University of Texas at Austin Latino Research Initiative

About Socio-Cultural Stress Profiles Study

Assessing socio-cultural stress profiles, stress responses, and health in Mexican American adolescents

Project Summary: 

This project is in response to PA-17-042 and examines the longitudinal influence of socio-cultural stressors, physiological and behavioral stress responses to these stressors, and health outcomes of adolescents in Mexican immigrant families. Recognizing the challenging social environments in which adolescents in Mexican immigrant families are embedded, this project creates socio-cultural stress profiles comprised of economic stress, discrimination and foreigner stress, and language brokering experiences (in which children translate between English and Spanish for their English-limited parents).

Our ongoing research with adolescents in Mexican immigrant families has identified three socio-cultural stress profiles (moderate, protective, risk), three stable profiles over time (stable moderate, stable protective, stable risk), and two socio-cultural change profiles over time (improved, declined). The proposed project builds on a successful study of adolescents in Mexican immigrant families to examine, prospectively, the influence of socio-cultural stress profiles in middle school alone, as well as continuity and change in socio-cultural stress profiles from middle school to high school, on adolescent health (Aim 1). Specifically, this grant will allow the research team to add measures of physiological health outcomes, namely inflammation (IL-6, C-reactive protein) and diabetes risk (hemoglobin A1c). We will also test a pathways model, to determine whether socio-cultural stress profiles are associated with adaptive or maladaptive physiological and behavioral stress responses that influence health (Aim 2). Further, we propose to test whether the associations from socio-cultural stress profiles to stress responses to health outcomes are exacerbated or mitigated through various moderators, including personal (resilience, parent support) and cultural (family obligation) resources, stress related to legal status, and language brokering places and content (Aim 3). Physiological stress response will be assessed via cortisol. Acute cortisol will be assessed by measuring reactivity and recovery to an adaptation of the Trier Social Stress Test, in which adolescents verbally translate a medical document for their parents. Day-to-day cortisol will also be measured. Substance use and sleep are self-reported daily, and motionlogger watches worn on the wrist provide an objective assessment of sleep.

By studying socio-cultural stress profiles that include language brokering experiences, a common phenomenon in low-income Mexican immigrant families that has received little attention to date, we can detect points for preventive interventions to reduce health disparities. We examine the complex conditions under which socio-cultural profiles can function as sources of both risk and protection for adolescents. This project has the potential to uncover processes and practices that can reduce persistent health disparities in Mexican immigrant families.

Project Details: 

Project Title: Socio-Cultural Stress Profiles, Stress Responses, and Health in Mexican American Adolescents
Funder(s): National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
Project Period: 2019-

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