Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 42, Issue 10, pp 1611–1623 | Cite as

Cultural Stressors and Mental Health Symptoms Among Mexican Americans: A Prospective Study Examining the Impact of the Family and Neighborhood Context

  • Rajni L. NairEmail author
  • Rebecca M. B. White
  • Mark W. Roosa
  • Katharine H. Zeiders
Empirical Research


Studies of stress consistently have linked individuals’ experiences of stress to maladjustment, but limited attention has been given to cultural stressors commonly experienced by minority individuals. To address this, the current study examined the links between cultural stressors and prospective changes in mental health symptoms in a sample of 710 (49 % female) Mexican American youth. In addition, the moderating role of both family and neighborhood cohesion was examined. In-home interviews were completed with youth, mothers (required) and fathers (optional) to collect data on youth’s experiences of cultural stressors (discrimination and language hassles) and internalizing/externalizing behavior, and mothers’ report of family cohesion and mothers’ and fathers’ report of neighborhood cohesion. Analyses revealed that youth’s experiences of discrimination and language hassles at 5th grade were related positively to increases in internalizing symptoms at 7th grade. Additionally, youths who reported higher levels of language hassles in 5th grade experienced increases in externalizing symptoms across the 2-year span. Both family and neighborhood cohesion emerged as significant moderating factors but their impact was conditional on youth’s gender and nativity. Limitations and future implications are discussed.


Discrimination Mental health Mexican American Language hassles 



RN conceived of the current study, participated in its design and coordination, performed the statistical analyses and drafted the manuscript; RW participated in the design and interpretation of the data, performed statistical analyses and helped draft the manuscript; MW participated in the design and coordination of the study, was the PI on the Grant whose data are used in the study, provided feedback and written contribution to the manuscript; KZ participated in providing feedback and contributions to the manuscript draft. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. We gratefully acknowledge the families for their participation in the project. Work on this project was supported, in part, by NIMH Grants P30-MH39246, R01-MH68920, and T32-MH018387, and by the Cowden Fellowship Program of the School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rajni L. Nair
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rebecca M. B. White
    • 2
  • Mark W. Roosa
    • 2
  • Katharine H. Zeiders
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Letters and SciencesArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  2. 2.School of Social and Family DynamicsArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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