A Resilience Approach to the Acculturation Gap Hypothesis among Mexican-descent College Students
College students’ self-reported mental health has worsened over the past fifteen years, and this has been evident across students of many ethnic backgrounds including those Mexican-descent, who are one of the fastest-growing populations in college enrollment. It is well known that suffering from internalizing problems during college can cause various personal, social, and academic repercussions. It is critical to understand culture-specific risk or protective factors that may aid in better understanding internalizing problems among Mexican-descent college students with the aim in elucidating prevention efforts and disseminating public knowledge to assist mental health professionals who work on college campuses. One cultural and familial factor that has been associated with internalizing symptoms, namely depression, in Mexican-descent college students has been the differential endorsement between mothers and youth on cultural values related to their Latinx heritage culture. This is also known as enculturation gaps. Thus, the present study aimed to evaluate parent-youth intergenerational acculturative (IA) conflict as a mediator between acculturation gaps/enculturation gaps and youth’s internalizing symptomology. Acculturation gaps and enculturation gaps were assessed across three domains: cultural practices, cultural identity, and cultural values. Additionally, models were examined separately for primary woman caregiver-youth relationship and primary man caregiver-youth relationship. Lastly, parent-youth relationship resilience was examined as a potential protective factor in the association between acculturation gaps/enculturation gaps and parent-youth IA conflict. The sample consisted of 382 Mexican-descent college students. To test the proposed conceptual model, a total of 12 moderated-mediation models were run. Across our all moderation-mediational models for both primary woman caregiver and primary man caregiver, no indirect effects emerged as significant, but there were notable direct effects. This study found that caregiver-youth relationship resilience was negatively associated with caregiver-youth IA conflict across both primary female and male caregivers. It also found that caregiver-youth IA conflict was positively associated with youth internalizing symptomology across both primary female and male caregivers. Lastly, a direct effect trending towards statistical significance found that primary woman caregiver-youth gaps about Latinx cultural values, which focused on the cultural value of collectivism, were positively associated with youth’s internalizing symptoms. Implications for researchers, college administrators, mental health providers, college students, and their families are discussed.