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Title: Acute salivary cortisol response among Mexican American adolescents in immigrant families
Objectives: Though previous research has indicated that language brokering can be stressful, the findings are mixed, pointing to potential moderators of the association. Guided by an ecological perspective, we examined the role of individual, family, and environmental factors in Mexican American adolescents’ acute cortisol responses to language brokering. Method: The study consisted of 46 Mexican American adolescents recruited around a metropolitan city in Central Texas. Participants translated a difficult medical document from English to Spanish for their parents, followed by an arithmetic task (modeled after the Trier Social Stress Test [TSST]). Participants’ perceptions (perceived efficacy and parental dependence), parental hostility, and discrimination experiences were assessed via self-report and were examined as moderators of adolescents’ responses to the task. Results: Results revealed differential responses to the task based on individual, family, and environmental factors. High efficacy and low dependence−parental hostility−discrimination related to stress responses characterized by low baselines, steeper reactivity, and faster recovery. Low efficacy and high dependence related to greater baseline stress and a slower recovery. High levels of parental hostility related to a slower recovery. High levels of discrimination related to greater baseline stress. Conclusions: The study demonstrates that the modified TSST task can elicit an acute hypothalamic−pituitary−adrenal axis more » response, but the nature of this response is dependent upon participants’ perceptions of language brokering (parental dependence and efficacy), parental hostility, and discrimination experiences. Adolescents’ individual characteristics and contextual demands remain important considerations in understanding their acute stress responses. « less
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Cultural diversity & ethnic minority psychology
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National Science Foundation
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  1. Adolescents from Mexican immigrant families are often embedded in a challenging social environment and experience multiple contextual stressors, including economic stress, discrimination, and foreigner stress. We consider how the effects of these contextual stressors may be amplified or diminished for adolescents who function as language brokers, interpreting and mediating for their English-limited parents. Using two waves of survey data collected from a sample (N = 604 at Wave 1; N = 483 at Wave 2) of Mexican American adolescents with ages ranging from 11 to 15 (Mage = 12.41, 54% female), four distinct brokering – stress profiles were identified. Latent profile analyses revealed that with moderate levels of contextual stress, adolescents with more positive language brokering experiences (protective group) demonstrated more favorable outcomes than those with neutral language brokering experiences (moderate group) and those who did not involve themselves as frequently in language brokering activities (less-involved group). In contrast, high levels of contextual stress, coupled with more negative language brokering experiences (risk group), produced the least favorable outcomes among adolescents.
  2. This study focused on early adolescents’ stress of language brokering and examined the moderating role of family cumulative risk in the relation of language brokering to adjustment problems. Data came from self-reports of 604 low-income Mexican American adolescent language brokers (54% female; [Formula: see text]= 12.4; SD = 0.97; 75% born in the United States) and their parents (99% foreign-born) in central Texas. Path analyses revealed that brokering stress, but not frequency, was positively associated with adolescents’ adjustment problems, including depressive symptoms, anxiety, and delinquency. We also found that the relation between stress of brokering for mothers and adolescents’ depressive symptoms was stronger among families with a high cumulative risk. Further, with a high cumulative risk, adolescents exhibited delinquent behaviors regardless of the levels of stress from translating for fathers. Current findings underscore the importance of examining family contexts in assessing the consequences of language brokering for Mexican American early adolescents’ well-being.
  3. Aims and objectives/purpose/research questions: Language brokering (LB) is an informal translation experience where bilinguals serve as linguistic and cultural intermediaries for family members. LB may have long-term socio-emotional and cognitive outcomes, yet little is known about its effects on executive functions (EFs). This study examines how first language (L1) proficiency and negative emotions tied to language brokering experiences affect EF performance on a Simon task (ST). Design/methodology/approach: Fifty-three Mexican American Spanish–English bilinguals with LB experience performed a ST, and reported their feelings towards LB for their mother. Data and analysis: Mean reaction times (RTs) and accuracy rates for correct ST trials were analyzed using linear mixed effects modeling, with trial type, proficiency and negative emotions tied to LB experience as factors and their interactions as additional predictors. Findings/conclusions: The L1 proficiency and negative emotions tied to brokering experiences have divergent, but combined effects on EF. Contrary to our hypotheses, low L1 proficiency predicted better performance and the smallest Simon effect was found for brokers with low L1 proficiency and low negative emotional brokering experiences. However, high L1 proficiency predicted better performance (smallest RTs) regardless of negative emotions tied to brokering experiences. Originality: This study takes a different perspective on themore »examination of individual differences among bilinguals, in which we examine how negative emotions tied to brokering experiences coupled with L1 proficiency relates to EF performance. Significance/implications: Our results provide support for the need to understand how individual differences in bilingual language experiences, such as L1 proficiency and negative emotions tied to LB, interact with performance on the ST.« less
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  5. Abstract Objectives

    Cognitive control predicts functional independence and cognitive health outcomes, but is yet to be known the extent to which social stress, like discrimination, may diminish cognitive control capacities in Mexican-origin women. We evaluated the prospective associations between everyday and ethnic discrimination on cognitive control and examined the mediating effects of depressive symptoms on these links. We further examined the extent to which associations varied by age and financial strain.


    We used data from 596 Mexican-origin women (average age = 38.89, standard deviation = 5.74) who participated in a 3-wave longitudinal study spanning 8 years (from 2012 to 2020). Participants completed measures of everyday and ethnic discrimination at Wave 1, depressive symptoms in Waves 1 and 2, and completed computer-based tasks of cognitive control at Wave 3. Self-reported assessments of financial strain were completed at Wave 2. Moderated mediation structural equation models were implemented to test hypotheses.


    Depressive symptoms significantly mediated the prospective association between everyday/ethnic discrimination to cognitive control. Higher levels of everyday and ethnic discrimination at baseline were associated with more depressive symptoms at Wave 2, which were then related to poorer cognitive control (i.e., longer reaction time in congruent and/or incongruent trials) at Wave 3. There wasmore »no significant moderation of age. Among those with low financial strain, higher levels of everyday discrimination were related to faster response times.


    Results revealed the long-term consequences of experiences with discrimination on cognitive control that operate through increased depressive symptoms and that may have some subtle differential effects across levels of financial strain.

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