Measuring Psychosocial Stress in Puerto Rican Women: The Hispanic Women's Social Stressor Scale (HWSSS)
Methods: The sample was comprised of 153 community dwelling adult Puerto Rican women participating in a stress and mental health study. Their mean age was 33.6, and 37.8% had not completed high school. Most participants were born in Puerto Rico (70%), and 70.16% had an annual household income below $24,999. The HWSSS was administered in English (47.7%) and Spanish (52.3%). Three items related to immigration, which do not apply to Puerto Ricans, were removed reducing the total number of the HWSSS items from 41 to 38.
An exploratory factor analysis identified and extracted a likely factor structure using Principle Axis Factoring as the extraction method. The number of factors retained was determined based on an examination of the produced eigen values. The retained factors were then rotated to obtain interpretable factor loadings using oblique Promax rotation to allow for correlated factors. The factor loadings for each item were examined and assigned to the factor on which they had the largest loading. Items that did not meet a cutoff point (≤.4), or were cross-loaded, were not retained in the final structure.
Results: The exploratory factor analysis revealed a reduced 26-item form of the HWSSS with a six-factor underlying structure. The combined six factors accounted for 55% of the total variance. The structure that emerged was notably different from that of the original HWSSS developed for women of Mexican heritage. Of special interest, were factors 1 and 2 which included items related to racism and English language proficiency respectively. The Cronbach's Alphas for each factor subscale were: Factor 1 (.87), Factor 2 (.83), Factor 3 (.83), Factor 4 (.85), Factor 5 (.72), and Factor 6 (.71).
Implications: The findings underscore the need to consider Hispanic subgroup differences in social work practice and research. The type and magnitude of the stressors women of Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage face may be defined by the sociocultural and political uniqueness of their respective Hispanic subgroups. This 26-item version of the HWSS appears to be an appropriate measure for use with Puerto Rican women, particularly because it captures racism-related stress. Future research could examine the psychometric properties and factor structure of this scale with larger samples of women of Puerto Rican and other historically oppressed ethnic groups. This could help gain a better understanding of the links between structural disadvantages, stress, and health disparities.