The Effects of Economic and Sociocultural Stressors on the Well-being of Children of Latino Immigrants Living in Poverty.

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Objective: This article explored whether preschoolers’ physical (body mass index [BMI] and salivary cortisol levels) and psychological (internalizing/externalizing behaviors) well-being were predicted by economic hardship, as has been previously documented, and further, whether parental immigrationrelated stress and/or acculturation level moderated this relationship in low-income Latino families. Method: The sample for the current study included 71 children of Latino immigrants (M 4.46 years, SD .62). Parents completed questionnaires assessing immigration-related stress, acculturation level, economic hardship, and child internalizing and externalizing behaviors. Child’s BMI was also calculated from height and weight. Salivary cortisol samples were collected midmorning and midafternoon at home on non-child-care days. Salivary cortisol values were averaged and log transformed. Results: Children’s salivary cortisol was predicted by an interaction between economic hardship and acculturation, with lower cortisol values except when children were protected by both lower acculturation and lower economic hardship. Both internalizing and externalizing behaviors were predicted by an interaction between economic hardship and immigration-related stress, with highest behaviors among children whose parents reported high levels of both economic hardship and immigration-related stress. Conclusions: The effects of economic hardship on the well-being of young children of Latino immigrants may depend on concurrent experiences of sociocultural stress, with detrimental effects emerging for these outcomes only when economic hardship and sociocultural stressors are high.

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