Latinx youth benefit from ethnic pride and culture

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Cultural preservation can help Latinx youth cope with adverse life experiences and social threats such as racism and discrimination, a study finds.

In addition, encouraging Latinx adolescents of Mexican origin to embrace their ethnic pride, cultural values, and connections to their cultural community contributes to positive development and better adjustment during adolescence, the findings show.

The study results appear in the journal Developmental Psychology.

“We found evidence suggesting that increasing ethnic pride and connection to cultural values may significantly improve psychological well-being for Mexican-origin adolescents,” says Lisa Johnson, lead author and doctoral student in the UC Davis psychology department and the Center for Mind and Brain.

In this study, researchers collected questionnaires from nearly 700 Latinx adolescents when they were 14 and 16 years old and in ninth and 11th grades between 2011 and 2014. Participants completed a battery of self-report measures capturing their ethnic pride and endorsement of traditional Mexican values as well as their sense of well-being across multiple social, emotional, and academic domains.

This study is part of a continuing assessment of multiple generations of Mexican-origin families living in the United States called the California Families Project. In this group of adolescents, 29% were born in Mexico and moved to the US as first-generation residents, 62% had one parent born in the US, and 9% had both parents born in the US. Most of the families were two-parent households.

The study was designed as a conceptual replication of the Five Cs model of Positive Youth Development in psychology, which proposes that adolescent thriving is reflected by caring, character, competence, confidence, and connection. They reflect prosocial tendencies, socioemotional skills, self-esteem, and social connectedness.

One of the goals of this research was to test whether adolescents’ ethnic pride and connection to cultural values promoted adolescent thriving through the Five Cs. Indeed, findings revealed that teens who reported strong, positive connections to their ethnic/racial background at age 14 showed more evidence of psychological well-being at age 16. Findings were consistent for girls and boys and remained the same regardless of adolescents’ generational status.

The findings have significant practical implications, Johnson says.

“Families, teachers, and community leaders have a crucial role in supporting Mexican-origin and other Latinx youth by modeling and fostering a healthy, positive, and strong connection to their ethnic/racial community,” Johnson says. “Empowering youth to recognize and draw strength from the cultural wealth of their ethnic/racial background is critical for their well-being, especially during mid-adolescence when they are forming their sense of self by exploring who they want to be, what they value and what their goals are.”

She says programs that engage youth and their cultural community during mid-adolescence can have a significant impact on adolescents’ psychological health and well-being. “These benefits may last throughout their lives.”

This study has support from the National Institutes of Health.

Source: UC Davis