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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This study examined the role of family conflict, family cohesion and religion on the relationship between discrimination and psychological distress among Latino/as in the United States with a focus on gender differences. The study had two main objectives: 1) To test alternate stress-buffering models to understand the mechanisms through which family cohesion, family conflict, and religion affect the relationship of discrimination and psychological distress, allowing for interaction effects with ethnicity and gender; 2) To test hypotheses about the possible non-linear effects of family cohesion on psychological distress, derived from the ([1989] 2000) Olson Circumplex Model (OCM), which was originally based on clinical samples of mostly non-Latino adults.

Data (N=2,554) were drawn from the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS). The analytic sample consists of 577 Cuban; 495 Puerto Rican; 868 Mexican; and 614 Other Latino adults aged 18 to 97. This study controlled for gender, ethnicity, age, work status, education, income, marital status, self-perceived social status and ability to speak English. Multiple regression and Wald tests confirmed that higher levels of perceived discrimination are associated with higher levels of psychological distress. In regard to the first study objective, the analysis showed that women and Puerto Ricans are more likely to report higher levels distress than men and Mexicans, but there were no significant interactions of discrimination with ethnicity and gender. Moreover, increased levels of family conflict increased the level of psychological distress; however, family conflict did not have any moderating effect on the relationship between discrimination and psychological distress. Church attendance more than once a week significantly decreased psychological distress among Latino/as. In regard to the second objective, the analysis showed that family cohesion does have a non-linear effect on psychological distress among Latinos/as. At low levels of family cohesion, more cohesion increased distress, but at moderate and high levels of cohesion, increased cohesion decreased distress. These results indicate that discrimination, family conflict, family cohesion and church attendance are important factors affecting psychological distress among Latinos.

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