Trajectories of cultural stressors and effects on mental health and substance use among hispanic immigrant adolescents

Seth J. Schwartz, Jennifer B. Unger, Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, Byron L. Zamboanga, Elma I. Lorenzo-Blanco, Sabrina E. Des Rosiers, Andrea J. Romero, Miguel Ángel Cano, Melinda A. Gonzales-Backen, David Córdova, Brandy M. Piña-Watson, Shi Huang, Juan A. Villamar, Daniel W. Soto, Monica Pattarroyo, José Szapocznik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Purpose We sought to determine the extent to which initial levels and over-time trajectories of cultural stressors (discrimination, negative context of reception, and bicultural stress) predicted well-being, internalizing symptoms, conduct problems, and health risk behaviors among recently immigrated Hispanic adolescents. Addressing this research objective involved creating a latent factor for cultural stressors, establishing invariance for this factor over time, estimating a growth curve for this factor over time, and examining the effects of initial levels (intercepts) and trajectories (slopes) of cultural stressors on adolescent outcomes. Methods A sample of 302 recently immigrated Hispanic adolescents in Miami (median of 1 year in the United States at baseline) and Los Angeles (median of 3 years in the United States at baseline) was recruited from public schools and assessed six times over a 3-year period. Results Perceived discrimination, context of reception, and bicultural stress loaded onto a latent factor at each of the first five timepoints. A growth curve conducted on this factor over the first five timepoints significantly predicted lower self-esteem and optimism, more depressive symptoms, greater aggressive behavior and rule breaking, and increased likelihood of drunkenness and marijuana use. Conclusions The present results may be important in designing interventions for Hispanic immigrant children and adolescents, including those within the present wave of unaccompanied child migrants. Results indicate targeting cultural stressors in interventions may have potential to improve well-being and decrease externalizing behaviors and substance use within this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-439
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015


  • Adolescent
  • Conduct problems
  • Context of reception
  • Cultural stress
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Discrimination
  • Hispanic
  • Immigrant
  • Positive youth development
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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