A Social Ecological Study of Psychological Distress Among Recently Immigrated, Latina Young Adults

Frank Dillon, Melissa M. Ertl, Michael Verile, Nusrat Siraj, Rosa Babino, Mario De La Rosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The present study examined potential individual-, cultural-, and interpersonal-level determinants of psychological distress among young adult Latina immigrants during their initial months in the United States. Five hundred thirty participants (aged 18 to 23 years old) immigrated an average of 1 year before assessment. Higher levels of psychological distress (as measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory; Derogatis & Fitzpatrick, 2004) were associated with undocumented immigration status, more immersion in the dominant U.S. society, and more acculturative stress. Participants who more strongly endorsed certain marianismo beliefs (i.e., Latina women should be [a] the spiritual leaders of their family and are responsible for the family's spiritual growth and [b] virtuous and chaste) indicated less distress. Participants who endorsed the belief that Latina women should be subordinate and self-silencing to maintain harmony in relationships reported more intense distress. Women who endorsed the belief that Latinas should be the main source of strength for their family also reported more distress. Participants' attachment to their social network served as a moderator of several direct effects. Participants who experienced close attachment to their social network and more ethnic immersion reported substantively less distress than other participants did. Participants reporting lower attachment and lower endorsement of the virtuous and chaste belief experienced more distress than their peers did. Participants indicating lower attachment and higher endorsement of subordinate and self-silencing beliefs also reported more distress than peers did. Finally, participants who spent less time in the United States and reported lower attachment indicated higher levels of distress. Findings inform interventions to eliminate mental health disparities affecting Latina young adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Latina/o Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - May 10 2018


  • Immigrants
  • Latina
  • Psychological distress
  • Social and cultural determinants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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