Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis



Reader 1

Sheila Walker

Reader 2

KaMala Thomas

Rights Information

© 2014 Alison B. Ross


Although professionals in psychiatry, psychology and medicine claim to endorse the biopsychosocial model as proposed by George L. Engel (1977), clinicians in all three fields still tend to underutilize it. Some academics have also criticized the model for its inadequate emphasis on cultural contextualization. To improve upon the model, I sought to empirically establish the relationship between culturally-specific social factors and psychological disorder, in this case depressive symptoms in Mexican-American adults. Eighty-six Mexican-American participants living on the US-Mexico border completed scales measuring depressive symptoms, bidirectional acculturation, living situation, diabetes, and health beliefs regarding the origins of diabetes. The results revealed that diabetes, acculturation, and gender were not associated with depressive symptoms in this population, even when controlling for mental health biases. This finding is in contrast to findings from other literature that associated diabetes, low acculturation and gender with depression in Hispanic adults. Extended family cohabitation was also not associated with lower numbers of depressive symptoms, despite the importance of familism and the extended family unit in Mexican-American culture. Unemployment was significantly related to number of depressive symptoms in both genders. There was no significant relationship between acculturation and health beliefs. These results indicate the importance of studying psychological disorders within the context of specific population groups that transcend vague censual terms. The discussion addresses methodological concerns and further directions for research concerning gender roles, chronic illness, depression and out-of-home employment in Mexican-American adults.