Dimensions of Acculturative Stress and Mexican American Emerging Adults Prosocial Behaviors
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Stressful experiences are demanding and can weaken coping mechanisms and lead to maladjustment (Conger et al., 1993; Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Mexican Americans face unique forms of stressors, including acculturative stress. Acculturative stress is defined as demands placed on the individual that result from adapting to a new culture (Alegria & Woo, 2009). Acculturative stress is multidimensional and can be conceptualized in different ways. Language is a salient component of everyday life and may contribute to acculturative stress among Mexican Americans. Specifically, language can be potentially stressful for emerging adults who speak English as a second language and have difficulty communicating with others. Additionally, emerging adults may feel that they have access to fewer opportunities than their European American peers because of their ethnicity. Emerging adults who believe that society excludes them based on their ethnicity may experience environmental stress, another dimension of acculturative stress. Acculturative stress has been linked to a variety of behavioral outcomes, including prosocial behaviors, which are positive actions intended to benefit others. Prior research has demonstrated that acculturative stress is positively associated with specific forms of prosocial behaviors but is negatively associated with other forms (McGinley et al., 2010). Furthermore, while researchers have examined different components of acculturative stress, it is unclear if these dimensions differentially impact different types of prosocial behaviors. The current study examined the relations between two dimensions of acculturative stress (language stress and environmental stress) and Mexican American emerging adults' prosocial behaviors (dire, emotional, compliant, altruistic, anonymous, and public). Data was collected from Mexican American emerging adults in California and Texas. Participants were Mexican American college students (mean age=23.05 years, range 18-30 years; 66.9% female). Participants completed measures of their acculturative stress (Social, Attitudinal, Familial, and Environmental Acculturative Stress Scale; Mena, Padilla, & Maldonado, 1987). For the current study, the existing environmental stress subscale (10 items; alpha=.85) was used to assess stress associated with perceptions of limited opportunities and social exclusion. A language stress subscale (3 items; alpha=.73) was created to assess stress associated with communication. Regressions were conducted to examine the associations among language and environmental stress and six types of prosocial behaviors. The results demonstrated that language stress positively predicted anonymous prosocial behaviors and negatively predicted altruistic prosocial behaviors. Environmental stress positively predicted emotional, dire, compliant, and anonymous prosocial behaviors and negatively predicted altruistic prosocial behaviors. Discussion will focus on the differential relations among language stress, environmental stress and specific prosocial behaviors and the implications of these findings for measurement and future research.