Acculturative stress and obesity : the moderating role of emotional eating in a community sample of Latino/a adolescents.
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Simmons, Stephanie Jernigan. 1991-
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Acculturating to American culture is often a stressful experience for Latino/a adolescents and has been associated with negative health outcomes and obesity. Previous research suggests that maladaptive coping increases the association between stressful acculturative experiences and negative health outcomes. Emotional eating has been identified as a maladaptive coping mechanism in Latino/a adolescents and has been shown to contribute to increased weight. However, previous studies have investigated neither differenes in emotional eating and stress between Latino/a and non-Latino/a adolescents, nor the role of emotional eating as a coping mechanism for acculturative stress. The current study sought to fill these gaps using a community sample of 168 Latino/a adolescents. A series of Pearson correlations compared differences in emotional eating and stress between Latino/a and non-Latino/a adolescents. Second, a series of hierarchical linear regressions determined if emotional eating strengthened the relationship between baseline acculturative stress and longitudinal change in body mass index. Participants completed self-report measures of emotional eating, eating habits, perceived stress, and acculturative stress at time one. Height and weight measurements were taken at time one and repeated at a three-month follow-up. There were no differences in emotional eating between Latino/a and non-Latino/a adolescents. In Latino/a adolescents, neither acculturative stress nor emotional eating was associated with longitudinal change in body mass index. Further, emotional eating failed to moderate the relationship between acculturative stress and change in body mass index; additional research is needed to determine if acculturative stress or emotional eating contributes to longitudinal weight gain. Despite these negative findings, it appears that Latino/a adolescents are at a high risk for negative health outcomes. Compared to non-Latino/a adolescents, Latino/a adolescents demonstrated significantly higher body mass index at time one and time two, gained significantly more weight between time one and time two, demonstrated significantly worse eating patterns, and endorseed significantly higher levels of stress. Additionally, results suggest that acculturative stress is a significant risk factor for higher emotional eating in Latino/a adolesents. Such knowledge should be applied when considering prevention of disordered eating, unhealthy eating patterns, and weight gain in the rapidly growing population of Latino/a adolescents in the United States.