Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

15746 Coping with Acculturative Stress Among Latinas: Contextual Approach to Immigration Challenges

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 8:00 AM
Constitution E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Venera Bekteshi, MSW, MPA, MA, PhD Candidate, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Karen Kayser, PhD, Professor, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Purpose: With the increasing number of Latino immigrants to the U.S., scholarly research on the psychological distress of Latinos has become more prevalent. While most of the research examines the impact of acculturation on psychological distress, it often disregards the unique role that acculturative stress plays in mediating the relationship between acculturation and psychological distress. Using the framework of Family Stress Management (FSM) theory (Boss, 2002), the current study investigates the contextual influence on acculturative stress and psychological distress of Latina women, emphasizing contextual factors such as family-cultural conflict, decision making power at home and aspects of Latino culture such as principles of familism. Acculturation strategies and systems of support are tested for their capacity to moderate the relationships between contextual factors, acculturative stress and psychological distress.

Methods: Using the National Latino Asian American Survey (2002), the current study involved 639 Latina women born in Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico. A mediated moderation analysis was conducted through Path Analysis in MPLUS. Multi-group analyses were carried out to examine the impact of acculturation strategies and systems of support in the relationship between contextual factors, acculturative stress and psychological distress. Analyses resulted in five path models estimated to capture the effect of external (U.S climate, socioeconomic status, developmental, cultural and global aspects) and internal contexts (philosophical, psychological and structural dimensions. The selection of contextual factors was based in theory and literature. The final models contained only the significant contextual factors. The fit of the data to the models was adequate. Chi-square was non-significant, Comparative Fit Index (CFI) and Tucker Lewis Index (TFI) were greater than 0.95, and Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA) was less than 0.05. in all five models.

Results: Findings challenged the previous perception that acculturative stress is always associated with psychological distress. The impact of acculturative stress on psychological distress was a function of contextual factors. Acculturative stress possessed the weakest coefficients compared to other contextual factors in the three models in which it significantly impacted the psychological distress. U.S. climate contexts (racial and daily discrimination and financial constraints) shaped acculturative stress and psychological distress most often, followed by developmental (age and English skills) and cultural contexts, (family-cultural conflict and the principles of familism). Income and structural components of internal contexts (i.e. household decision-making power) impacted psychological distress only. Biculturalism emerged as the most effective integration form. Spousal support moderated the relationships between contextual factors, psychological distress and acculturative stress.

Implications: The findings inform researchers in developing culturally sensitive interventions for effective practice with Latina immigrants. The results also inform practitioners in considering the contextual factors that have a significant impact on the psychological distress of Latinas and the resources that are needed to promote a healthy integration of Latina women. The results have implications for policies that assist Latina women and their families jointly. Recommendations are made for multi-cultural immigration policies that enable the retention of aspects of native culture and buffer Latinas from the negative impact of contextual factors.

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