Toward an Integrative Conceptual Model on the Relations Between Discrimination and Prosocial Behaviors in US Latino/Latina Youth

  • Alexandra N. DavisEmail author
  • Gustavo Carlo


Theorists and scholars assert that ethnic/racial marginalization and discrimination have important deleterious consequences for adolescents Schmitt, M. T., & Branscombe, N. R. (2002). The meaning and consequences of perceived discrimination in disadvantaged and privileged social groups. European Review of Social Psychology, 12(1), 167-199. US Latino adolescents are at high risk for experiencing such discrimination, and, therefore, understanding the associations between discrimination and developmental outcomes in this population is important. Traditionally, research on discrimination and US Latino youth development has focused on maladjustment, such as internalizing and externalizing symptoms (see Brittian et al. J Youth Adolesc 42(3):328–341, 2013). However, several scholars (e.g., Cabrera, Soc Policy Rep 27:1–30, 2013) have noted the need to study both positive and negative outcomes in Latino populations to redress deficit models and provide a more balanced perspective on US Latino youth. One indicator of positive adjustment and social functioning is prosocial behaviors, which are defined as actions intended to benefit others (Carlo & Randall, J Youth Adolesc 31(1):31–44, 2002). Prosocial behaviors are important markers of psychological and behavioral well-being, health, and social engagement. Discrimination is important for predicting prosocial behaviors particularly because of the social exclusion and marginalization that often occurs when adolescents perceive ethnic/racial bias. Discrimination experiences are also stressful, which may deplete the cognitive and emotional resources necessary to engage in prosocial behaviors (see Batson & Powell, Handbook of psychology, Volume 5: Personality and social psychology. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 2003; Davis et al. J Youth Adolesc 45(3):457–470, 2016). Although the research on discrimination and prosocial behaviors is limited, the existing studies demonstrate complex relations among experiences of discrimination and multiple forms of prosocial behaviors. This chapter explores theories and research on the role of discrimination experiences in US Latino youth prosocial behaviors and the associated risk and protective factors.


Cultural Stress Cultural values Depressive symptoms Discrimination Ethnic identity Family relationships Latino/a Youth Mental health Prosocial Behaviors Protective Factors Positive adjustment Protective factors Risk factors 


  1. Acosta, S. L., Hospital, M. M., Graziano, J. N., Morris, S., & Wagner, E. F. (2015). Pathways to drinking among Hispanic/Latino adolescents: perceived discrimination, ethnic identity, and peer affiliations. Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, 14(3), 270–286. Scholar
  2. Alfaro, E. C., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Gonzales-Backen, M. A., Bámaca, M. Y., & Zeiders, K. H. (2009). Latino adolescents' academic success: The role of discrimination, academic motivation, and gender. Journal of Adolescence, 32(4), 941–962. Scholar
  3. Attar, B. K., Guerra, N. G., & Tolan, P. H. (1994). Neighborhood disadvantage, stressful life events and adjustments in urban elementary-school children. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 23(4), 391–400. Scholar
  4. Batson, C. D., & Powell, A. A. (2003). Altruism and prosocial behavior. In T. Millon & M. J. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of psychology, Volume 5: Personality and social psychology (pp. 463–484). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  5. Behnke, A. O., Plunkett, S. W., Sands, T., & Bámaca-Colbert, M. Y. (2011). The relationship between Latino adolescents’ perceptions of discrimination, neighborhood risk, and parenting on self-esteem and depressive symptoms. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 42(7), 1179–1197. Scholar
  6. Berry, J. W. (2003). Conceptual approaches to acculturation. In K. M. Chun, P. B. Organista, & G. Marin (Eds.), Acculturation: Advances in theory, measurement, and applied research (pp. 17–37). Washington D. C: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bianchi, F. T., Zea, M. C., Poppen, P. J., Reisen, C. A., & Echeverry, J. J. (2004). Coping as a mediator of the impact of sociocultural factors on health behavior among HIV-positive Latino gay men. Psychology & Health, 19(1), 89–101. Scholar
  8. Brittian, A. S., O’Donnell, M., Knight, G. P., Carlo, G., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., & Roosa, M. W. (2013). Associations between adolescents’ perceived discrimination and prosocial tendencies: The mediating role of Mexican American values. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(3), 328–341. Scholar
  9. Brown, J. D., & Smart, S. (1991). The self and social conduct: Linking self-representations to prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(3), 368–375. Scholar
  10. Browning, C. R., Burrington, L. A., Leventhal, T., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2008). Neighborhood structural inequality, collective efficacy, and sexual risk behavior among urban youth. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 49(3), 269–285. Scholar
  11. Cabrera, N. J. (2013). The SRCD ethnic and racial issues committee positive development of minority children. Social Policy Report, 27, 1–30. Retrieved from Scholar
  12. Calderón-Tena, C. O., Knight, G. P., & Carlo, G. (2011). The socialization of prosocial behavioral tendencies among Mexican American adolescents: The role of familism values. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(1), 98–106. Scholar
  13. Cano, M. Á., Schwartz, S. J., Castillo, L. G., Romero, A. J., Huang, S., Lorenzo-Blanco, E. I., … Lizzi, K. M. (2015). Depressive symptoms and externalizing behaviors among Hispanic immigrant adolescents: Examining longitudinal effects of cultural stress. Journal of Adolescence, 42, 31–39. Scholar
  14. Caprara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., Pastorelli, C., Bandura, A., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2000). Prosocial foundations of children’s academic achievement. Psychological Science, 11(4), 302–306. Scholar
  15. Carlo, G. (2006). Care-based and altruistically-based morality. In M. Killen & J. G. Smetana (Eds.), Handbook of moral development. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  16. Carlo, G. (2014). The development and correlates of prosocial moral behaviors. In M. Killen & J. G. Smetana (Eds.), Handbook of moral development (2nd ed., pp. 208–234). New York, NY: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  17. Carlo, G., & Conejo, L. D. (in press). Traditional and culture-specific parenting of prosociality in U.S. Latino/as. To appear In D. Laible, L. Padilla-Walker & G. Carlo (Eds.), Oxford handbook of parenting and moral development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Carlo, G., & de Guzman, M. R. T. (2009). Theories and research on prosocial competencies among US Latinos/as. In F. A. Villarruel, G. Carlo, J. M. Grau, M. Azmitia, N. J. Cabrera, & T. J. Chahin (Eds.), Handbook of U.S. Latino psychology: Developmental and community-based perspectives (pp. 191–212). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  19. Carlo, G., Fabes, R. A., Laible, D., & Kupanoff, K. (1999). Early adolescence and prosocial/moral behavior II: The role of social and contextual influences. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 19(2), 133–147. Scholar
  20. Carlo, G., McGinley, M., Hayes, R. C., & Martinez, M. M. (2012). Empathy as a mediator of the relations between parent and peer attachment and prosocial and physically aggressive behaviors in Mexican American college students. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 29(3), 337–357. Scholar
  21. Carlo, G., Mestre, M. V., Samper, P., Tur, A., & Armenta, B. E. (2011). The longitudinal relations among dimensions of parenting styles, sympathy, prosocial moral reasoning, and prosocial behaviors. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 35(2), 116–124. Scholar
  22. Carlo, G., & Randall, B. A. (2002). The development of a measure of prosocial behaviors for late adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 31(1), 31–44. Scholar
  23. Coker, T. R., Elliot, M. N., Kanouse, D. E., Grunbaum, J. A., Schwebel, D. C., Gilliland, J., … Schuster, M. A. (2009). Perceived ethnic/racial discrimination among fifth-grade students and its association with mental health. American Journal of Public Health, 99, 878–884. Scholar
  24. Compas, B. E. (1987). Coping with stress during childhood and adolescence. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 393–403. Scholar
  25. Córdova, D., Jr., & Cervantes, R. C. (2010). Intergroup and within-group perceived discrimination among US-born and foreign-born Latino youth. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 32(2), 259–274. Scholar
  26. Davis, A. N., Carlo, G., Schwartz, S. J., Unger, J. B., Zamboanga, B. L., Lorenzo-Blanco, E. I., … Martinez, M. M. (2016). The longitudinal associations between discrimination, depressive symptoms, and prosocial behaviors in US Latino/a recent immigrant adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 45(3), 457–470. Scholar
  27. Davis, A. N., Carlo, G., Schwartz, S. J., Zamboanga, B., Armenta, B. E., Kim, S. Y., … Streit, C. (2018). The roles of familism and emotion reappraisal in the relations between acculturative stress and prosocial behaviors in Latino/a college students. Journal of Latina/o Psychology, 6(3), 175–189.
  28. Davis, A. N., Carlo, G., & Streit, C. (2014). Dimensions of acculturative stress and Mexican American emerging adults prosocial behaviors. In Cambio de Colores (11th: 2013: Columbia, Mo.). Latinos in the Heartland: At the Crossroads: Incorporation or Marginalization? Proceedings of the 11th Annual Conference: Columbia, Missouri, June 13–15, 2012 Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri.Google Scholar
  29. Davis, A. N., Carlo, G., Streit, C., & Crockett, L. J. (2015). Explaining the relations between acculturative stress and prosocial behaviors in Latino Youth from the Midwest. In Cambio de Colores (13th: 2015: Columbia, Mo.). Latinos in the Heartland: Growing Together in New Destination Areas: Proceedings of the 13th Annual Conference: Columbia, Missouri, June 25–27, 2014. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri. University of Missouri-Columbia. Cambio Center.Google Scholar
  30. Davis, A. N., Carlo, G., Streit, C., & Crockett, L. J. (2017). Considering economic stress and empathic traits in predicting prosocial behaviors among U.S. Latino adolescents. Social Development, 27, 58–72. Scholar
  31. Davis, A. N., & Carlo, G. (2018). The roles of parenting practices, sociocognitive/emotive traits, and prosocial behaviors in low-income adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 62, 140–150. Scholar
  32. Davis, A. N., Carlo, G., Hardy, S. A., Olthuis, J. V., & Zamboanga, B. L. (2017). Bidirectional relations between different forms of prosocial behaviors and substance use among female college student athletes. The Journal of Social Psychology, 6(157), 645–657. Scholar
  33. De Guzman, M. R. T., & Carlo, G. (2004). Family, peer, and acculturative correlates of prosocial development among Latinos. Great Plains Research, 14, 185–202.Google Scholar
  34. DeGarmo, D. S., & Martinez, C. R. (2006). A culturally informed model of academic well-being for Latino youth: The importance of discriminatory experiences and social support. Family Relations, 55(3), 267–278. Scholar
  35. Dubow, E. F., Tisak, J., Causey, D., Hryshko, A., & Reid, G. (1991). A two-year longitudinal study of stressful life events, social support, and social problem-solving skills: Contributions to children’s behavioral and academic adjustment. Child Development, 62, 583–599. Scholar
  36. Edwards, L. M., & Romero, A. J. (2008). Coping with discrimination among Mexican descent adolescents. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 30(1), 24–39. Scholar
  37. Eisenberg, N., & Spinrad, T. L. (2014). Multidimensionality of prosocial behavior: Rethinking the conceptualization and development of prosocial behavior. In L. M. Padilla-Walker & G. Carlo (Eds.), Prosocial development: A multidimensional approach (pp. 17–35). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Evans, G. W., Li, D., & Whipple, S. S. (2013). Cumulative risk and child development. Psychological Bulletin, 139(6), 1342–1396. Scholar
  39. Federal Bureau of Investigation News. (2017). Hate crime statistics released: Report details offenses, victims, offenders, and locations of crimes. Retrieved from
  40. Flores, E., Tschann, J. M., Dimas, J. M., Bachen, E. A., Pasch, L. A., & de Groat, C. L. (2008). Perceived discrimination, perceived stress, and mental and physical health among Mexican-origin adults. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 30(4), 401–424. Scholar
  41. Greene, M. L., Way, N., & Pahl, K. (2006). Trajectories of perceived adult and peer discrimination among Black, Latino, and Asian American adolescents: patterns and psychological correlates. Developmental Psychology, 42(2), 218. Scholar
  42. Harris-Britt, A., Valrie, C. R., Kurtz-Costes, B., & Rowley, S. J. (2007). Perceived racial discrimination and self-esteem in African American youth: Racial socialization as a protective factor. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 17(4), 669–682. Scholar
  43. Hughes, D., Rodriguez, J., Smith, E. P., Johnson, D. J., Stevenson, H. C., & Spicer, P. (2006). Parents’ ethnic-racial socialization practices: a review of research and directions for future study. Developmental Psychology, 42(5), 747–770. Scholar
  44. Kahn, K. B., & Davies, P. G. (2011). Differentially dangerous? Phenotypic racial stereotypicality increases implicit bias among ingroup and outgroup members. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 14(4), 569–580. Scholar
  45. Kang, J., Bennett, M., Carbado, D., & Casey, P. (2011). Implicit bias in the courtroom. UCLA Law Review, 59, 1124–1186.Google Scholar
  46. Kaufman, J. M. (2005). Explaining the race/ethnicity–violence relationship: Neighborhood context and social psychological processes. Justice Quarterly, 22(2), 224–251. Scholar
  47. Knight, G. P., & Carlo, G. (2012). Prosocial development among Mexican American youth. Child Development Perspectives, 6(3), 258–263. Scholar
  48. Kulis, S., Marsiglia, F. F., & Nieri, T. (2009). Perceived ethnic discrimination versus acculturation stress: Influences on substance use among Latino youth in the Southwest. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50, 443–459. Scholar
  49. Laible, D. J., Carlo, G., & Roesch, S. C. (2004). Pathways to self-esteem in late adolescence: The role of parent and peer attachment, empathy, and social behaviours. Journal of Adolescence, 27(6), 703–716. Scholar
  50. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  51. Major, B., & O’Brien, L. T. (2005). The social psychology of stigma. Annual Review of Psychology, 56, 393–421. Scholar
  52. McGinley, M., Carlo, G., Crockett, L. J., Raffaelli, M., Torres Stone, R. A., & Iturbide, M. I. (2010). Stressed and helping: The relations among acculturative stress, gender, and prosocial tendencies in Mexican Americans. The Journal of Social Psychology, 150(1), 34–56. Scholar
  53. McGinley, M., Opal, D., Richaud, M. C., & Mesurado, B. (2014). Cross-cultural evidence of multidimensional prosocial behaviors: An examination of the prosocial tendencies measure (PTM). In L. M. Padilla-Walker & G. Carlo (Eds.), Prosocial development: A multidimensional approach (pp. 258–278). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McHale, S. M., Crouter, A. C., Kim, J., Burton, L. M., Davis, K. D., Dotterer, A. M., & Swanson, D. P. (2006). Mothers’ and fathers’ racial socialization in African American families: Implications for youth. Child Development, 77, 1387–1402. Scholar
  55. McMahon, S. D., & Watts, R. J. (2002). Ethnic identity in urban African American youth: Exploring links with self-worth, aggression, and other psychosocial variables. Journal of Community Psychology, 30, 411–432. Scholar
  56. Neblett, E. W., Rivas-Drake, D., & Umaña-Taylor, A. J. (2012). The promise of racial and ethnic protective factors in promoting ethnic minority youth development. Child Development Perspectives, 6(3), 295–303. Scholar
  57. Padilla-Walker, L. M., & Carlo, G. (Eds.). (2014). Prosocial development: A multidimensional approach. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Padilla-Walker, L. M., Carlo, G., & Nielson, M. G. (2015). Does helping keep teens protected? Longitudinal bidirectional relations between prosocial behavior and problem behavior. Child Development, 86(6), 1759–1772. Scholar
  59. Phinney, J. (1990). Ethnic identity in adolescents and adults: A review of research. Psychological Bulletin, 108, 499–514. Scholar
  60. Portes, A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (2006). Immigrant America: A portrait (3rd ed.). Berkley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  61. Raffaelli, M., Carlo, G., Carranza, M. A., & Gonzalez-Kruger, G. E. (2005). Understanding Latino children and adolescents in the mainstream: Placing culture at the center of developmental models. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 2005(109), 23–32. Scholar
  62. Randall, B. A., & Wenner, J. R. (2014). Adopting a multidimensional perspective on college students’ prosocial behaviors. In L. M. Padilla-Walker & G. Carlo (Eds.), Prosocial development: A multidimensional perspective. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Romero, A. J., & Roberts, R. E. (2003). The impact of multiple dimensions of ethnic identity on discrimination and adolescents’ self-esteem. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33(11), 2288–2305. Scholar
  64. Rosario, M., Salzinger, S., Feldman, R. S., & Ng-Mak, D. S. (2003). Community violence exposure and delinquent behaviors among youth: The moderating role of coping. Journal of Community Psychology, 31(5), 489–512. Scholar
  65. Rudmin, F. (2009). Constructs, measurements and models of acculturation and acculturative stress. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 33, 106–123. Scholar
  66. Schmitt, M. T., Branscombe, N. R., Postmes, T., & Garcia, A. (2014). The consequences of perceived discrimination for psychological well-being: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 140(4), 921–928. Scholar
  67. Schwartz, S. J., Zamboanga, B. L., & Jarvis, L. H. (2007). Ethnic identity and acculturation in Hispanic early adolescents: Mediated relationships to academic grades, prosocial behaviors, and externalizing symptoms. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 13(4), 364–373. Scholar
  68. Seaton, E. K., & Yip, T. (2009). School and neighborhood contexts, perceptions of racial discrimination, and psychological well-being among African American adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38(2), 153–163. Scholar
  69. Sirin, S. R., Rogers-Sirin, L., Cressen, J., Gupta, T., Ahmed, S. F., & Novoa, A. D. (2015). Discrimination-related stress effects on the development of internalizing symptoms among Latino adolescents. Child Development, 86(3), 709–725. Scholar
  70. Staub, E., & Vollhardt, J. (2008). Altruism born of suffering: the roots of caring and helping after victimization and other trauma. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 78(3), 267–280. Scholar
  71. Streit, C., Carlo, G., Killoren, S. E., & Alfaro, E. C. (2018). Family members’ relationship qualities and prosocial behaviors in US Mexican young adults: the roles of familism and ethnic identity resolution. Journal of Family Issues, 39(4), 1056–1084. Scholar
  72. Torres, L., Driscoll, M. W., & Voell, M. (2012). Discrimination, acculturation, acculturative stress, and Latino psychological distress: A moderated mediational model. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 18(1), 17–25. Scholar
  73. Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Tynes, B. M., Toomey, R. B., Williams, D. R., & Mitchell, K. J. (2015). Latino adolescents’ perceived discrimination in online and offline settings: An examination of cultural risk and protective factors. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 87–100. Scholar
  74. Umaña-Taylor, A. J., & Updegraff, K. A. (2007). Latino adolescents’ mental health: Exploring the interrelations among discrimination, ethnic identity, cultural orientation, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms. Journal of Adolescence, 30, 549–567. Scholar
  75. Vega, W. A., Khoury, E. L., Zimmerman, R. S., Gil, A. G., & Warheit, G. J. (1995). Cultural conflicts and problem behaviors of Latino adolescents in home and school environments. Journal of Community Psychology, 23(2), 167–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Individual, Family, and Community EducationUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Development and Family ScienceUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

Personalised recommendations