Title

The impact of acculturation on health-decision making in a young Latino population: A daily diary study

Date of Completion

January 2009

Keywords

Psychology, Social|Hispanic American Studies

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

Immigration, while offering many opportunities and positive benefits, has also been associated with increased stress and negative health impacts. Acculturation is the adaptation process that an individual goes through when adjusting to a new cultural milieu. Research examining the impact of acculturation on mental and physical health has been highly mixed, with both positive and negative health outcomes reported. Further complicating the current literature is a lack of conceptually appropriate operalizations of acculturation that take into account its multiple constructs as well as its dynamic nature. The purpose of this research was to define and describe the acculturation process, determine whether constructs associated with that process vary on a day-to-day level, and explore whether those variations can predict health-related decision-making for four different behaviors (sexual/HIV risk, alcohol consumption, nutrition, and exercise). These objectives were achieved through the implementation of a daily diary study with young Latinos (18-29), at varying stages in the acculturation process. Results support the notion that acculturation is a complex and dynamic process with multiple components, which are differentially predictive of daily decision-making. Overall, the findings offer insight into the nature of the health disparities between Latinos and Whites in the U.S., namely that certain aspects of the acculturation experience (e.g., language usage, identity conflict, acculturative stress) can contribute to the enactment of certain unhealthy or risky behaviors, such as sexual activity, binge drinking, and unhealthy eating patterns. ^