U.S. Mexican-Origin Adolescents' Bicultural Competence and Mental Health in Context

M. Dalal Safa, Rebecca White, Nicole E. Mahrer, George P. Knight, Nancy Gonzales, Michelle C. Pasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objectives: We examined the prospective association (from M age = 15.84 to 17.38 years) between bicultural competence and mental health among U.S. Mexican-origin adolescents relative to multiple (a) developmental niches, (b) components of bicultural competence, and (c) indicators of mental health. Method: Participants included 749 adolescents (49% female, 29.7% Mexico-born) recruited during late childhood and followed through late adolescence. We used latent profile analyses to identify adolescents' developmental niches based on sociocultural characteristics of the family, school, and neighborhood contexts and multiple-group structural equation modeling to examine whether these niches moderated the association between bicultural competence and mental health. Results: We identified 5 distinct adolescents' developmental niches. We found no association between bicultural competence and internalizing symptoms across niches; bicultural facility predicted lower externalizing symptoms among adolescents developing in niches characterized by immigrant families and predominantly Latino schools and neighborhoods. Conclusions: The diversity found among U.S. Mexican-origin adolescents' niches underscores the need to assess context broadly by including a range of settings. Studying multiple components of bicultural competence across numerous cultural domains may provide a better understanding of any mental health benefits of biculturalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-310
Number of pages12
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Adolescence
  • Biculturalism
  • Mental health
  • Neighborhood
  • School

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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