Family, Cultural, and Work Contexts as Linked to Mexican-origin Youth's Health Risk Behavior

Project Information

Principal Investigator: Lorey Wheeler
Co-Principal Investigator:
Funding Agency: UNL Research Council
Award Date:
Theme: Social-Emotional & Behavioral Health
Project URL: N/A

For more information please contact Lorey Wheeler at


Mexican-origin youth are at disproportionate risk for engagement in health-risk behavior. Health disparities experienced by minority youth represent a serious public health problem in the United States. Current National Institutes of Health program announcements specifically request proposals for research that seeks to identify social and cultural influences among ethnic minority youth that contribute to health disparities.

Stress processes have been implicated in youth’s health-risk behavior. Negative effects of intensive work (more than 20 hours per week) have been found, though little research has addressed other stressful aspects of work for adolescents and young adults. Furthermore, there have been several calls for more nuanced attention to strengths and positive adaptation that exist within minority populations, which is critical for developing effective interventions aimed at reducing health disparities. Aspects of family, culture and work have been identified that may reduce the effects of youth stress on health-risk behavior.

Thus, the primary objective of this research is to examine the interactive effects between stress exposure and aspects of culture, family, and work on risky behaviors (e.g., delinquency, substance use, sexual behavior) among Mexican-origin youth. Making strategic us of secondary data analyses, data will come from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health’s Mexican-origin subsample of 1,500 youth.

Complex statistical methods will be used as part of a longitudinal, ethnic-homogeneous design. The proposed study is essential for the principal investigator to secure external funding for future projects examining the potential interplay between multiple salient contexts to identify mechanisms that contribute to minority health disparities.