The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Examination of Cultural Adaptation and Depression in Hispanic Adults Who Immigrated to the U.S. As Youth

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 2:30 PM
Marriott Riverwalk, River Terrace, Upper Parking Level, Elevator Level P2 (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jeremiah W. Jaggers, PhD, Assistant Professor, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN
Gordon MacNeil, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Background: While parents in immigrant families tend to hold onto the norms and expectations of their native culture, their children are often subjected to greater pressure to acculturate to the new country.  Although children often adapt to new cultures much more easily and more quickly than do their parents, the shock of moving and need to negotiate the confluence of the two divergent cultures can produce distress that is difficult to overcome for these youth.  This stress is exacerbated and can become overwhelming in home environments where the parents have difficulty with the adaptation process.  Indeed, this can produce a risk for mental health problems not generally seen in adult immigrants. This study used a sample of Hispanic immigrants who immigrated as minors to examine the relationship between cultural adaptation and mental illness. Specifically, this study addressed the effects of acculturation, dissonant acculturation, acculturative stress, ethnic social identity, family cohesion, and subjective social status on depression amongst this immigrant group.

Method: A secondary analysis of the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS) was conducted.  The NLASS is a cross-sectional study providing information on mental illness and service-use among Latinos and Asian-Americans collected between May 2002 and November 2003.  The NLAAS provides a nationally representative sample of Latinos and Asian-Americans in the United States.  The current study collected data from Latinos born outside the U.S. who immigrated to the U.S. by age 17 (N = 581).  Recursive regression was conducted to examine the relationship of the independent variables to number of depressive symptoms experienced.  Binomial logistic regression was performed to examine the relationship of the independent variables to a diagnosis of major depressive episode.

Results: Recursive regression results showed that dissonant acculturation (β = .18, p <.001) and gender (β = .13, p <.01) were the strongest predictors of number of depressive symptoms.  Family cohesion was shown to reduce dissonant acculturation (β = -.528, p<.001).  Binomial logistic regression results showed that subjective social status (β = -.12, p <.01) and gender (β = 1.09, p <.01) were predictive of a diagnosis of major depressive episode. 

Implications: The results indicate that families play an important role in the cultural adaptation process.  Dissonant acculturation or parent-child value differences that arise from acculturation, contribute to the number of depressive symptoms reported by the child.  Simultaneously, family cohesion may reduce the effects of dissonant acculturation. By increasing family cohesion it may be possible to reduce dissonant acculturation and possibly symptoms of depression.  The risk-factors which contributed to the number of depressive symptoms did not necessarily contribute to a diagnosis of major depressive episode.  This may be due to the differences in complexity of symptom count and a diagnosis, or may be attributable to some unseen phenomena and deserves further examination.  Still, mental health practitioners should be aware that family conflict may result in more depressive symptomology, and that these problems are may lead to depression among females.