Ethnic-Racial discrimination experiences predict Latinx adolescents’ physiological stress processes across college transition

Michael R. Sladek, Saul A. Castro, Leah D. Doane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Consistent with conceptual frameworks of ethnic-race-based stress responses, and empirical evidence for the detrimental effects of ethnic-racial discrimination, the current study hypothesized that experiencing more frequent ethnic-racial discrimination during adolescence would predict differences in physiological responses to psychosocial stress across the college transition. U.S. Latinx adolescents (N = 84; Mage = 18.56; SD = 0.35; 63.1% female; 85.7% Mexican descent) completed survey measures of ethnic-racial discrimination during their final year of high school and first college semester (~5 months later), as well as a standard psychosocial stressor task during their first college semester. Repeated blood pressure and salivary cortisol measures were recorded to assess cardiovascular and neuroendocrine activity at baseline and stress reactivity and recovery. Data were analyzed using multilevel growth models. Experiencing more frequent ethnic-racial discrimination in high school, specifically from adults, predicted higher baseline physiological stress levels and lower reactivity to psychosocial stress during the first college semester, evidenced by both blood pressure and cortisol measures. Experiencing ethnic-racial discrimination from peers in high school also predicted higher baseline blood pressure in college, but not stress reactivity indices. Results were consistent when controlling for concurrent reports of ethnic-racial discrimination, gender, parents’ education level, body mass index, oral contraceptive use, time between longitudinal assessments, depressive symptoms, and general perceived stress. Experiencing frequent ethnic-racial discrimination during adolescence may lead to overburdening stress response systems, indexed by lower cardiovascular and neuroendocrine stress reactivity. Multiple physiological stress systems are sensitive to the consequences of ethnic-racial discrimination among Latinx adolescents transitioning to college.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105212
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Adolescents
  • Cardiovascular
  • Cortisol
  • Ethnic-Racial discrimination
  • Latinx
  • Stress reactivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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