Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Abstract

The overarching goal of this research is to increase understanding of the development of anxiety in children of low-income Mexican-origin immigrants. Mexican-origin children display disproportionately high rates of mental disorders such as anxiety, as they face many chronic stressors related to poverty and immigration. A likely mediator of this process is HPA axis activity, causing a buildup of cortisol in the body in response to chronic stress. There is a large amount of evidence indicating that HPA axis activity is a mechanism through which accumulated poverty-related stress causes mental illness, but this mediator has not been examined in relation to culturally relevant immigration-related stress. Although chronic stress related to poverty and immigration likely causes chronic HPA axis activity, which can lead to problems with anxiety, not all highly stressed children display anxiety, so there may be a moderator implicated in anxiety development. Neurocognitive processes such as attentional bias to threat have been shown to determine the trajectory of children’s anxious behavior later in life. Attentional bias to threat is a key component of the development and maintenance of anxiety, yet it has not been examined as a potential moderator distinguishing the highly stressed children who develop anxiety from those who do not. The present research focuses on HPA axis activity and attentional bias to threat in order to explain why some low-income Mexican-origin children display anxiety symptoms and some do not. This study addresses this question with a longitudinal research design in a community sample of low-income Mexican-origin children.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Available for download on Thursday, February 25, 2021

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