Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Health

First Advisor's Name

Dr. Miguel Ángel Cano

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Zoran Bursac

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Mariana Sanchez

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Chanadra Young Whiting

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


cultural stress, cultural stressors, family functioning, racism, coping, psychological stress, perceived health, Latinos, mental health, young adults

Date of Defense



Emerging adulthood (18-25 years) is a distinct period of life, characterized by a high level of instability in the matters of romantic life, work, and challenging developmental undertakings. Various events related to these developmental tasks may leave lifelong impacts on emerging adult’s identities and health across adulthood. Further, due to the unstable nature of this period, individuals in this age group are vulnerable to various mental health problems. Hispanic emerging adults may be particularly at risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes, as on top of normative developmental stressors (e.g., increased autonomy, finding employment), they are often exposed to various chronic sociocultural stressors. However, few studies have examined this period, let alone involving Hispanic emerging adults, in part due to the recent establishment of this period as a distinct stage of life. Considering the future health implications of this period, utilizing data from the Project on Health among Emerging Adult Latinos (Project HEAL), this research investigated the associations between cultural stressors (acculturation gap conflicts, ethnic discrimination) and outcomes such as depressive symptoms, psychological stress, and perceived health status among 200 Hispanic emerging adults. We also examined potential resources (family cohesion, distress tolerance, and optimism) that can help protect Hispanic emerging adults from the detrimental effects of acculturation gap conflicts and ethnic discrimination.

Our findings from hierarchical multiple regressions indicated that those with higher acculturation gap conflicts were more likely to experience depressive symptoms and perceive their health as poor. Similarly, Hispanic emerging adults who were experiencing higher ethnic discrimination were more likely to develop psychological stress. Results from moderation analyses showed that family cohesion moderated the association between acculturation gap conflicts and depressive symptoms. Additionally, both distress tolerance and optimism moderated the association between ethnic discrimination and psychological stress.

It is critical to identify culturally relevant and modifiable determinants that can have beneficial or adverse associations with the mental health of Hispanic emerging adults so that steps can be taken to design or modify prevention and intervention programs to safeguard the health of one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population. The findings of this study add to the limited literature by making a meaningful contribution to a subject area that needs more exploration.






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