John E. Schulenberg

Linking Community and Family Characteristics to Adolescent Adjustment

Research Project Description

Latino youth in immigrant families comprise the fastest growing segment of the U.S. school population and are at heightened risk of externalizing and internalizing symptoms. Extant research informative about parenting influences on Latino youth?s externalizing and internalizing problems has paid inadequate attention to community characteristics, particularly in new immigrant geographic areas of the U.S. Addressing this research gap, the primary goal of this application is to specify the cascade of effects linking new immigrant community and family contexts to Latino youth?s externalizing and internalizing problems from early through middle adolescence. Using multiple mediator models and drawing from culture- and context-specific theories of adolescent development, this research will test the following hypotheses: (1) A lower concentration of Latinos in the neighborhood, less protective immigrant parent social networks, and higher parent-child acculturation gaps will be associated with immigrant parents? greater psychological distress and reliance on their adolescent youth as cultural and language brokers; (2) Higher levels of parental psychological distress and youth?s cultural and language brokering will lead to lower levels of, and greater declines in, effective parenting, conceptualized as low parent-child conflict, appropriate parental monitoring, high family cohesion, and open parent-child communication; and, (3) Less effective parenting will lead to higher levels of, and stronger increases in, Latino youth externalizing and internalizing problems throughout adolescence. Tests of moderated mediation will be used to examine how pathways leading to externalizing and internalizing problems vary by youth?s gender, age, and nativity. Building on the PI?s partnership with the Cobb County School District (CCSD), youth in the proposed research will be representative of Latino students in all middle schools in Cobb County, GA, the second largest school district in Georgia. Georgia?s Latino population increased 785% from 1990 to 2010. The proposed sample of 600 Latino parent-child dyads will participate in eight time points of surveys over a period of four years. Capitalizing on the unique strengths of an accelerated longitudinal study design, this research will be informative about youth?s transitions from 6th through 11th grade. Best-practice structural equation modeling (SEM) techniques, including latent growth curve models, will be used to test the proposed hypotheses. This research is innovative, in our opinion, because it represents a substantial departure from prior studies by establishing the macro- to micro-link responsible for Latino adolescent externalizing and internalizing symptoms in a new immigrant area. By informing the timing and targets of culturally relevant, multi-level interventions, results from this research can be used to maximize strategies for deterring adolescents? externalizing and internalizing symptoms. In this way, the proposed research will advance policies and programs reducing the public health burden of internalizing and externalizing problems among the U.S. school population.

Funding: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (subcontract: 1 R01 HD 090232 01 A1)

Funding Period: 9/1/2017 to 5/31/2022

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