A robust literature indicates that increases in anxiety reduce an individual’s ability to generate adaptive coping mechanisms when faced with a challenge (e.g., Michael, 2000), which according to family stress theory produces a pile-up effect that further reduces adaptive coping (Boss, 1992). Living in constant fear of being deported or having a family member deported causes psychological distress that then influences cognitive, social, and emotional well-being (Danese & McEwen, 2012), particularly when coping mechanisms are inadequate (Flores, Tschann, VanOss Marin, & Pantoja, 2004; Sirin, Ryce, Gupta, & Rogers-Sirin, 2013). Increases in hope have been shown to promote an array of behavioral action and to expand perception of available coping resources, which result in an “undoing” effect on negative affect (Fredrickson, 2001; Snyder, 2002). Few studies have examined the effects of hope on anxiety for Latino immigrant youth, and none have studied whether hope can buffer against the chronic stress related to living under the constant threat of deportation.
Methods: This study uses a a standardized self-report survey and a cross-sectional sample of 7th grade Latino immigrant youth (N=136), of which 50% are female, 86% receive free and reduced lunch, 67% were born in the U.S., and 26% took the survey in Spanish. Bivariate correlations examined the basic associations between the variables. A path model examined the hypothesized moderated mediation and tested the ability of stress to mediate the fear of deportation to anxiety pathway, and the buffering effects of hope on the fear of deportation to stress path and from the stress to anxiety path.
Results: There was a main effect of fear of deportation (FOD) on anxiety (B=.14, p<.001) and stress partially mediated the path from fear of deportation to anxiety (B=.04, p<.05). Hope buffered the effect of fear of deportation on stress (B=-.12, p<.05), but did not moderate the relation between stress and anxiety.
Conclusions: When hope is high, increases in FOD result in minute increases in stress. In contrast, when hope is low, increases in FOD result in larger increases in stress leading to increases in anxiety. While the federal policy that incites FOD among Latino immigrant youth is not likely to change soon, prevention interventions that increase hope can offset some of FOD’s deleterious effects including anxiety.