In the current study, we examined the association between cultural stressors (i.e., perceived discrimination, pressure to acculturate, and pressure against acculturation) and psychosocial adjustment (i.e., self-esteem, psychological well-being, depressive symptoms, rule breaking, aggression, and hazardous alcohol use) among Latino college students (N = 1,145; 74.1% female; 73.9% US-born; Mage = 19.70, SD = 1.71). We hypothesized that higher levels of cultural stressors would predict poorer psychosocial outcomes. Further, we examined the moderating role of ethnic identity (i.e., exploration, resolution, and affirmation). We hypothesized that ethnic identity would buffer the association between cultural stressors and psychosocial adjustment such that this association would be weaker among individuals who reported higher levels of ethnic identity. Gender, age, and nativity (US-born versus immigrant) were used as covariates.
Path analysis using Mplus 7.2 (Muthén & Muthén, 2012) demonstrated partial support for our hypotheses. Specifically, more pressure to acculturate predicted lower self-esteem, more depressive symptoms, more rule breaking, and higher levels of aggression. More pressure against acculturation was associated with more depressive symptoms, rule breaking and aggression. Contrary to our hypothesis, more perceived discrimination was associated with less rule breaking. To test moderation by ethnic identity exploration, resolution, and affirmation we created cross-products after centering each independent variable and moderator. Results partially supported our hypotheses in that resolution buffered the association between discrimination and self-esteem and discrimination and psychological well-being. Affirmation buffered the association between discrimination and self-esteem, between discrimination and psychological well-being, between pressure to acculturate and rule-breaking, between discrimination and rule-breaking, between pressure to acculturate and aggression, between pressure against acculturation and aggression, and between discrimination and hazardous alcohol use. Contrary to our expectations, high levels of exploration increased the association between discrimination and self-esteem, between discrimination and psychological well-being, and between pressure to acculturate and aggression.
This study highlights the association of cultural stressors and well-being by demonstrating that ethnic identity can serve a protective role for Latino college students. The findings of this study identify ethnic identity as a possible focus of culturally-informed intervention programs to promote positive adjustment among Latino college students.