Understanding family acculturation processes and their role in Hispanic youth behavior problems

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Etiony Aldarondo - Committee Chair


Recent studies, suggesting a multidimensional framework for understanding the acculturation processes experienced by the Hispanic community, continue to explore and develop innovative concepts, such as biculturalism, Hispanicism, and Americanism, as they influence individual and family functioning. This dissertation contributes to the existing literature by identifying various within-family acculturation-related processes linked to youth problem behavior. More specifically, this study investigates the extent to which various aspects of acculturation (i.e., individual Hispanicism level versus mother-child dyad acculturation level gap) are associated with adolescent externalizing behavior in Hispanic families with a drug-using adolescent. A clinical sample (as identified by DSM-III-R drug abuse or dependent diagnosed adolescents) of 113 Hispanic mother and adolescent dyads participated in this study. It was hypothesized that for a drug-using clinical sample, (a) high acculturation and Americanism levels would be correlated with increased levels of adolescent behavior problems, while high Hispanicism levels would be correlated with decreased levels of behavior problems, (b) intergenerational acculturation-related gaps would have stronger associations with adolescent externalizing behavior problems than individual-level scores and, (c) individual and family levels of Hispanicism would have stronger associations with behavior problems than other acculturation-related variables. A correlation matrix and multiple hierarchical regression models were used to test these hypotheses. Results indicate that only the mother variables (individual-level) for Hispanicism and Americanism, and not the family-level gaps, had statistically significant associations with adolescent externalizing behaviors when controlling for a general family functioning variable (family conflict). While higher levels of mother-Hispanicism and lower levels of mother-Americanism may serve as protective factors for Hispanic adolescents, family conflict proved to be a stronger indicator in this substance-using sample. In addition, findings suggest that mothers and adolescents may experience the acculturation processes differently.


Psychology, Behavioral; Psychology, Clinical

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