Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches and Lectures


Acculturative Stress: What Role does it play in the Relationship between Threat Interpretation Bias and Anxiety?

Event Location / Date(s)

Washington, DC

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name / Publication Title

52nd Annual Convention of the Annual Convention of the Association for Behavior and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT)


Latino/a youth are at increased risk for developing anxiety and report a higher prevalence rate of anxiety symptoms when compared to other ethnic groups (Anderson & Mayes, 2010). Moreover, past research has shown that both cognitive factors, such as threat interpretation bias (the tendency to interpret ambiguous situations as threatening), and cultural factors, especially acculturative stress (the need to adjust to a difficult environmental change), are associated with anxiety symptoms (e.g., Chorpita, Albano, & Barlow, 1996; Suarez-Morales & Lopez, 2009). However, no study has examined the association between threat interpretation bias and anxiety in a primarily Latino/a sample. Moreover, it remains unclear what role acculturative stress plays in the association between threat interpretation bias and anxiety. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether acculturative stress mediates and/or moderates the association between threat interpretation bias and anxiety in Latino/a youth.

Participants included 286 middle-school students recruited from two public middle schools in South Florida. Participants completed the Revised Children’s Anxiety and Depression Scale(Chorpita, Yim, Moffitt, Umemoto, & Francis, 2000) to assess for anxiety symptoms, the Acculturative Stress Inventory for Children (Suarez-Morales, Dillon, & Szapocznik, 2007) to measure acculturative stress, and the Children’s Opinions of Everyday Life Events-Revised(Suarez-Morales & Bell, 2006) to asses for threat interpretation bias.

The findings supported the positive association between threat interpretation bias and anxiety symptoms. Further, acculturative stress partially mediated (but, did not moderate) this relationship. Results indicated that there was a significant total (β = .46, SE = .05, p < .001), direct (β = .25, SE = .05, p < .001), and indirect effect such that acculturative stress partially mediated the association between threat interpretation bias and anxiety (β = .20, SE = .03, p < .001). Thus, the tendency to interpret situations as threatening, which is associated with anxiety symptoms, is partly explained by negative and stressful experiences Latino youth encounter when adjusting to a new culture.

The findings of this study support cognitive process theories, specifically social information-processing theory with Latino populations. Moreover, the mediation findings suggest that an anxious adolescent may have perceived threat in an ambiguous situation due to cultural stressors. Cognitive interventions focused on providing an opportunity for youth to develop a more flexible and neutral interpretation to situations may be a worthwhile endeavor.