Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Mothering and Peer Associations Mediate Cumulative Risk Effects for Latino Youth

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Mothering and Peer Associations Mediate Cumulative Risk Effects for Latino Youth

Article excerpt

The present study examined whether positive parenting and deviant peer associations mediated the relations between a cumulative risk composite comprising financial strain, neighborhood problems, and maternal psychological distress and subsequent youth adjustment problems. Drawn from the Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three City Study, the sample consisted of 449 economically disadvantaged Latino families. Structural equation modeling showed that after controlling for baseline levels of youth adjustment problems, cumulative risk, assessed when adolescents were 10 to 14 years old, was directly and indirectly predictive of youths' deviant peer associations 16 months later, through mother's positive parenting. Deviant peer associations, in turn, were proximally associated with youth externalizing and internalizing problems. Findings underscore the role of mothers and peers in Latino youth adjustment problems.

Key Words: adolescent peer relations, development/outcomes, Hispanic Americans, low-income families, mother-child relations, mothers.

Latino families living in the United States are disproportionately affected by economic disadvantage (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2002), which exposes them to an array of co-occurring socioenvironmental risk factors (Fitzgerald, Lester, & Zuckerman, 1995). Evidence indicates that an accumulation of risk factors is associated with elevated levels of adjustment problems for youth living in these families (Gerard & Buehler, 2004). Few studies, however, have examined the processes through which an accumulation of risk factors operates to influence the outcomes of Latino youth. The purpose of the present research was to examine a theoretical model of the relations between cumulative risk and subsequent externalizing and internalizing problems in a sample of economically disadvantaged Latino adolescents who were initially 10 to 14 years old. Guided by a family stress perspective (Conger, Reuter, & Conger, 2000; Conger et al., 2002), we tested a model in which a cumulative risk composite comprising financial strain, neighborhood problems, and matemal psychological distress made an indirect contribution to youth adjustment by undermining positive parenting practices. On the basis of social interaction theory (Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989), we expected quality of parenting to contribute to early adolescents' associations with deviant peers approximately 16 months later. We also expected that cumulative risk would lead directly to deviant peer associations, which, in tum, would be proximally associated with early adolescent externalizing and internalizing problems (see Figure 1).

A growing body of research documents the salience of the family context to Latino youth outcomes. Findings indicate that parenting that is nurturant and involved and that contains appropriate levels of behavioral control and communication is linked with lower levels of adjustment problems for Latino adolescents (Barrera et al., 2002; Davalos, Chavez, & Guardiola, 2005; Eamon & Mulder, 2005). Given these findings, positive parenting in the present study consisted of matemal monitoring, involvement, limit setting, and mother-adolescent trust and communication. Consistent with a family stress perspective, research shows that exposure to poor quality neighborhoods, economic stress, and matemal psychopathology undermines the positive parenting practices of Latino mothers (Barrera et al., 2002; Roosa et al., 2005). Moreover, an accumulation of such socioenvironmental risks is detrimental to Latino youth externalizing and internalizing problems (Gerard & Buehler, 2004).

Despite the particularly salient role of families, Latino youth live in a broad social context and, similar to youth from other racial/ethnic groups, are likely to be influenced by their peers (Barrera et al., 2002). Social interaction theory recognizes the importance of parents, but proposes that a proximal mechanism of risk for maladjustment among adolescents is deviant peer associations (Patterson et al. …

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