Mexican American Adolescent Couples' Discrepancies in Acculturation and Machismo: Associations With Observed Negativity While Discussing Relationship Problems
Methods: Thirty MA dating couples (ages 15-17) from an urban area of a Southwest border state took part in a video-taped interaction task in which each partner choose a most recent or important relationship problem and was given seven minutes to discuss it (14 minutes total). Interactions were coded using the System for Coding Interactions in Dyads (r >.8). The Negativity and Conflict Subscale (NC) included aggregated verbal (e.g., tone of voice, speaking through teeth) and non-verbal (e.g., glaring or cold facial expression, rigid posture) tension, frustration, and anger (Malik & Lindahl, 2000). Discrepancy scores were calculated by subtracting males’ scores from females’ on self-reported acculturation and machismo (Cuellar et al., 1995). Acculturation was measured via two subscales (Anglo-/AOS and Mexican-orientation/MOS).
Results: Adolescent males were more endorsing of machismo statements than were females, t(27) = 3.02, p = .01. Couples’ discrepancy in AOS was positively associated with machismo discrepancy, β = .41, p = .03, and observed NC, β = .39, p = .03, although this relationship was not mediated by machismo discrepancy according to Baron and Kenny’s (1986) Causal Steps approach to determine mediation, F(2,25) = 2.01, p = .16. A positive correlation of machismo discrepancy and NC did, however, yield a small effect size, r = .19, p = .34. Discrepancy in MOS and overall acculturation did not yield significant associations with NC.
Conclusions and Implications: One strength of this study is the use of both observational and self-report methods to assess negotiation of conflict at the dyadic level in an understudied minority youth population. This preliminary research suggests that MA dating couples may experience increased difficulty in negotiating relationship problems as they acculturate to U.S. dating norms dissimilarly. Reaching youth with programs attuned to this reality is particularly important given their earlier transitions to marriage and parenting roles, and the documented association between heightened negativity during conflict and interpersonal violence.