This proposal seeks 5 years of continued support for a longitudinal study of processes that contribute to the high levels of psychopathology experienced by Mexican American youth. Consistent with priorities in the NIMH Strategic Plan (2008), this study is designed to (1) chart mental illness trajectories of Mexican American youth, (2) increase our capacity to predict who in this population is at risk for mental illness by identifying individual, environmental, and social factors that contribute to both risk and resilience processes, (3) identify contributors to the mental health disparities experienced by Mexican Americans, and (4) provide a scientific foundation for the design of the next generation of preventive interventions for this population. Beginning with a diverse sample of 750 Mexican American families, this study tests hypotheses regarding how interactions of individuals'cultural orientations with characteristics of family, community, peer, and school contexts contribute to the mental health burden of this population. A unique aspect of this study is the assessment of cultural orientation (i.e., degree of endorsement of traditional Mexican cultural values and degree of endorsement of U.S. cultural values) of children and parents as well as the degree to which communities and schools support these cultural traditions. Children and their parents were assessed initially when children were in 5th and 7th grades. Results supported the specific aims: (1) changes in children's and parents'cultural orientations are related to greater risk for mental health disorders;(2) family characteristics, such as parent-child conflict, mediate the relation between cultural orientation mismatches and children's psychopathology;and (3) child and parent cultural orientations buffer relations between common risk factors (e.g., economic hardship) and children's mental health. The proposed continuation will assess this sample of children and their parents as youth experience the rapid developmental changes of middle adolescence (grades 10 and 12) when rates of psychopathology accelerate.
The specific aims remain: (1) cultural mismatches between children and family, community, and school contexts will be related to risk for psychopathology;(2) family and peer group processes will mediate relations between cultural mismatches and psychopathology;and (3) cultural orientations of children and their parents will moderate relations between risk factors and psychopathology. Longitudinal tests of these aims will provide a strong foundation for the next generation of prevention programs to reduce mental health disparities for Mexican Americans.
This longitudinal study of 750 Mexican American adolescents and their parents is important from a public health standpoint because of the mental health disparities Mexican American adolescents experience, and the limited knowledge about factors that contribute to these disparities. This study is designed to (1) chart mental illness trajectories of Mexican American youth, (2) increase our capacity to predict who in this population is at risk for mental illness by identifying individual, environmental, and social factors that contribute to both risk and resilience processes, (3) identify contributors to the mental health disparities experienced by Mexican Americans, and (4) provide a firm scientific foundation for the design of the next generation of preventive interventions for this population in order to reduce the individual, family, and societal burden of psychopathology within this population.
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