The relation of culture to differences in depressive symptoms and coping strategies: Mexican American and European American college students

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Beltran, Irma Sofia

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This study examined cultural differences in depression and in coping strategies used by a sample of 170 European American and 136 Mexican American college students. Ethnicity, Sex, and Family values were hypothesized to be related to betweengroup differences in depressive symptoms and coping strategies. Participants completed the following self-administered questionnaires: a demographics questionnaire, Family Attitude Scale-Revised (FAS-R), COPE Inventory, Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDIII), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale CES-D), and somatic items of the Brief Symptoms Inventory (BSI). Results indicated that Mexican Americans obtained higher scores on the BDI-II, p < .001, and CES-D, p < .01. Mexican Americans were also found to report more traditional family values, p < .001, than European Americans. Significant between-group differences were also found in specific depressive symptoms on the BDI-II and CES-D, p < .001. Specifically, Mexican Americans reported more somatic complaints, cognitive symptoms (e.g., punishment feelings), and interpersonal relational problems, p < .001, than European Americans. Conversely, European Americans reported more depressive affect symptoms, p < .001, on the BDI-II and more readily agreed with positive affect items on the CES-D, p < .001, than Mexican Americans. T-tests also revealed significant between-group differences in coping strategies. European Americans reported using Venting, Active Coping, and Substances, p < .001 more often; whereas, Mexican Americans reported using Denial, Religion, Restraint, and Acceptance, p<.001, more often. Regression analyses revealed that a significant interaction between ethnicity, sex, and family values was related to the report of worthlessness, guilt feelings, punishment feelings, concentration difficulties, and appetite change. This 3-way interaction was also related to the report of Substance Use and Religious coping strategies. Results further indicated that significant 2-way interactions were found between the cross-products of ethnicity, sex, and family values which explained other significant cross-cultural differences in depressive symptoms and coping strategies in this study. Given that the present findings suggest there are possible differences in depressive symptoms and ways of coping between Mexican American and European American College students, they may have implications for primary prevention programs directed at reducing symptoms of depression in Mexican American and European American university students.