Latino/a Young Adults’ Experiences of Acculturative Stress, Depressive Symptoms, and Romantic Relationship Commitment: Ethnic Identity as Protective


Sahitya Maiya, Utah State University, USA
Sarah E. Killoren, University of Missouri, USA
J. Kale Monk, University of Missouri, USA
Gabrielle C. Kline, West Virginia University, USA
Fiorella L. Carlos Chavez, University of Missouri, USA


U.S. Latino/a young adults tend to experience acculturative stress, or pressures associated with adapting to the majority culture, which may be deleterious to their mental and relational well-being. Latino/as encountering acculturative stress can display elevated depressive symptoms (Mayorga et al., 2018), and depressive symptoms can affect romantic relationships (Knobloch & Delaney, 2012). In contrast, ethnic identity can be a culture-specific protective factor for U.S. Latino/as’ well-being (Iturbide et al., 2009). Informed by acculturative stress theory (Berry, 1998) and stress-spillover and stress-buffering hypotheses (Cohen & Wills, 1985; Randall & Bodenmann, 2017), we examined the direct and indirect effects of acculturative stress via depressive symptoms on romantic relationship commitment, and the moderating role of ethnic identity in these associations among U.S. Latino/a young adults.


Participants included 475 Latino/a young adults (61% women; Mage = 25 years). Most participants were engaged/married (57%), had Latino/a romantic partners (62%), and identified as heterosexual/straight (86%). A Qualtrics panel study was used to recruit and collect data from participants using online surveys. Participants self-reported on their demographic characteristics, acculturative stress, ethnic identity dimensions, depressive symptoms, and romantic relationship commitment using well-validated and reliable measures


Using conditional process modeling, we found that Latino/a young adults experiencing acculturative stress displayed greater depressive symptoms, which in turn, resulted in lower romantic relationship commitment. Acculturative stress was also directly related to lesser romantic relationship commitment. Ethnic identity, particularly resolution and affirmation, buffered the negative effects of acculturative stress on romantic relationship commitment.


Our findings highlight that acculturative stress undermines U.S. Latino/as’ romantic relationship commitment by depleting their mental health resources. Further, a strong sense of ethnic group belonging that is beyond exploration may be protective for committed relationships among Latino/a young adults. Findings help extend acculturative stress theory to the study of relational well-being and contextualize stress-spillover and buffering hypotheses in Latino/a cultural processes. Considering the role played by ethnic identity is also important in psychotherapy because it can foster greater romantic relationship commitment and may spillover to shape other interpersonal relationships.

Link to paper > Contact >
Back to Spotlights