Abstract: Threat and Deprivation As Distinct Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress and Depression Symptoms in First and Second Generation Latinx Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Threat and Deprivation As Distinct Predictors of Posttraumatic Stress and Depression Symptoms in First and Second Generation Latinx Youth

Thursday, January 13, 2022
Liberty Ballroom O, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Jodi Berger Cardoso, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Kalina Brabeck, PhD, Associate Professor, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI
Tzuan A. Chen, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Arlene Bjugstad, MSW, PhD student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Caitlyn Mytelka, LMSW, Doctoral Student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Randy Capps, PhD, Senior Research Analyist, Migration Policy Institute, DC
Thomas Crea, PhD, Associate Professor of Social Work, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Background. Actual and threatened family separations via parental detention and deportation are adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that affect children’s development. Children in Latinx immigrant families are also at an increased risk of other ACEs, such as other traumatic experiences and economic hardship. According to the Dimensional Model of Adversity and Psychopathology (DMAP), ACEs occur along two distinct yet related dimensions—threat (i.e., interpersonal violence) and deprivation (i.e., the lack of normative environmental cognitive and social stimuli). ACEs differentially affect developmental outcomes: threats affect fear-based learning and emotional reactivity, while deprivation affects reward-based learning, executive functioning, and language development, which in turn increase the incidence of internalizing symptoms (e.g., depression). In alignment with the DMAP framework, the purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which: (a) restrictive immigration policies and heightened enforcement is associated with a threat response, and (b) deprivation, measured as economic hardship, is associated with internalizing processes. We hypothesized that the threat of immigration enforcement would be associated with greater symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while economic hardship would be associated with greater depressive symptoms. Methods. First and second generation Latinx students were recruited from 11 high schools in Harris County, Texas (n=152) and Rhode Island (n=154). Fifty-eight percent were female and over a quarter were aged 17 and older. Fifty-three percent were first-generation immigrants with the remainder being second-generation youth with immigrant parents; most youth or parents were from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala. Dependent variables were PTSD (Child PTSD symptom scale (α=0.91) and depression (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale α=0.88). Covariates included immigration enforcement fear (α=0.81), economic hardship (α=0.86), trauma exposure (α=0.82), age (years), gender (female versus other), and generation status (U.S versus foreign born). Separate regression models were run for PTSD and its three subscales (hypervigilance, avoidance, and re-experiencing), and depression and its three subscales (i.e., somatic, positive affect, and interpersonal). The Markov Chain Monte Carlo method and discriminant function analysis were used to impute missing data. RESULTS. Economic hardship was not a significant predictor of PTSD nor its subscales, except avoidance (B=0.129, SE=0.054, p=0.017). On the other hand, immigration enforcement fear was positively associated with PTSD (B=0.291, SE=0.135, p=0.031) and the subscales of avoidance (B=0.134, SE=0.064, p=0.038) and hyperarousal (B=0.119, SE=0.046, p=0.01) but not re-experiencing. Economic hardship was positively associated with depression and its three subscale domains (Total: B=0.458, SE=0.118, p<0.001; Somatic: B=0.170, SE=0.066, p=0.011; Positive affect: B=0.108, SE=0.034, p=0.001; Interpersonal: B=0.18, SE=0.052, p=0.001). In contrast, immigration enforcement fear was not a significant predictor of depression and its three subscale domains. CONCLUSIONS. Consistent with the DMAP framework, experiences of threat and deprivation contribute differentially to mental health outcomes in first and second generation Latinx youth. Researchers should explore how mental health treatment for these youth may differ based on the type of ACE experienced. Public policies that minimize threat such as immigration enforcement and improve economic wellbeing, for instance the federal pandemic stimulus payments and unemployment expansions, can reduce ACEs and related PTSD and depression among Latinx youth.