Stress, Support, and Academic Performance of Urban, Low-Income, Mexican-American Adolescents

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Abstract

It has been suggested that some proportion of minority adolescents' high risk for school failure is associated with their increased exposure to the stressors often associated with low-income status—more specifically, with their residence in resource-poor communities—including poverty, racism, conflict, and violence. However, to date, little research has documented the nature of such stress. This descriptive study attempts to begin filling this gap in the literature by examining the nature of stress in the lives of 158 urban, low-income, Mexican-American high school sophomores. While these adolescents experienced stressors that are characteristic of their developmental level, their report of many severe stressors reflect the circumstances of their resource-poor communities. Generally, males and females endorsed equal numbers of stressors both overall and within various contexts. However, gender differences were observed in terms of the kinds of stressors these groups experienced. In examining the relationship between stressors and academic achievement, gender differences also were revealed in the types of stressors that are related to concurrent grade point average. Contrary to much of the literature that establishes a relationship between stress and social support, the presence of caring and emotional support was not sufficient to offset the negative effects of stress for this urban, low-income, minority sample.

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