Economic Stress and Cortisol among Postpartum Low-Income Mexican American Women: Buffering Influence of Family Support

Shannon L. Jewell, Linda Luecken, Jenna Gress-Smith, Keith Crnic, Nancy Gonzales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

Low-income Mexican American women experience significant health disparities during the postpartum period. Contextual stressors, such as economic stress, are theorized to affect health via dysregulated cortisol output. However, cultural protective factors including strong family support may buffer the impact of stress. In a sample of 322 low-income Mexican American women (mother age 18-42; 82% Spanish-speaking; modal family income $10,000-$15,000), we examined the interactive influence of economic stress and family support at 6 weeks postpartum on maternal cortisol output (AUCg) during a mildly challenging mother-infant interaction task at 12 weeks postpartum, controlling for 6-week maternal cortisol and depressive symptoms. The interaction significantly predicted cortisol output such that higher economic stress predicted higher cortisol only among women reporting low family support. These results suggest that family support is an important protective resource for postpartum Mexican American women experiencing elevated economic stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-144
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioral Medicine
Volume41
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 3 2015

Keywords

  • Mexican American
  • cortisol
  • economic stress
  • perinatal
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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