The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Acculturation, chronic psychosocial stress, and health among Latino mother-child pairs in Texas


1Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, 2Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences, University of Oregon, 3Department of Educational Psychology, University of Houston, 4Oregon Social Learning Center, Oregon Social Learning Center, 5School of Social Work, University of Southern California

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Chronic psychosocial stress is an important link between challenging social environments and negative health. Despite the persistence of health disparities among US minority populations, little is known about the effects of chronic stress on health among Latino populations. Recent methodological advances now allow researchers to use minimally-invasive techniques to measure several physiological parameters associated with psychosocial stress. This study presents results from the pilot study Latino Youth and the Future, which examined stress biomarkers related to immunity (Epstein-Barr Virus [EBV] antibodies and C-reactive protein [CRP] from dried blood spot samples) and neuroendocrine function (salivary alpha-amylase [AA]) among Latino mother-child pairs in Houston, Texas. We focus on associations between stress biomarkers and stressors such as acculturation, discrimination, length of residence in the US, and occupational stress. This study used a multi-method, multi-agent design with structured interviews, questionnaires, videotaped interactions, anthropometrics, and biomarker collection among 40 Latino mother-child pairs, including 40 eighth grade children (20 boys, 20 girls) primarily of Mexican descent.

We documented several significant correlations between different biomarkers and psychosocial stressors, notably between EBV antibodies and time in the US, language ability, and acculturation among mothers. We also documented a significant correlation between baseline AA in mothers and kids; however, in response to the interaction task, AA levels stayed higher in mothers compared to their children. This study shows how different stressors can elicit different physiological responses, and demonstrates that simultaneous measurement of multiple stress biomarkers is required for a complete understanding of the effects of stress on health.

Support: NIH NIDA (1R24DA019798-01A1); Oregon Social Learning Center; University of Houston; University of Oregon

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