Can respect in schools moderate the relationship between Latino youths' environmental stressors and high-risk behaviors?

The purpose of this research was to examine whether perceived mutual respect in schools (between teachers, administrators, and students) can moderate the relationship between environmental stressors (i.e., peer victimization, ethnic discrimination, parental intrusiveness) and the exhibition of high-risk behaviors (i.e., substance use, delinquent behaviors, physical aggression) in Latino adolescents in southern California. Research frequently investigates ways in which family-related variables can buffer such behaviors, but few studies have examined whether school climate can minimize the effects of stressors on youth high-risk behaviors. Given how much time adolescents typically spend at school, a positive school climate may serve as a protective factor against various stressors. Data from 610 ninth and tenth grade Latino adolescents (M=14.8 years old) in Los Angeles were used in the present study; a majority of which were 2nd generation youth (i.e., born in the U.S., parents born in other countries). Hierarchical regression analyses were performed (1) to assess the direct and direct effects of environmental stressors on high-risk behaviors, and (2) to test mutual respect in school and gender as potential moderators. Analyses revealed that ethnic discrimination was the only environmental stressor that was significantly related to all three high-risk behavior outcomes. Also, school respect significantly moderated the effects of peer victimization and parental intrusiveness on all three high-risk behavior outcomes. Results of the study indicated that promoting respect within the school environment could potentially buffer the impact of intrusive parenting and peer victimization on adolescent engagement in high-risk behaviors. In addition, schools should continue to investigate ways to decrease the incidences of peer victimization and ethnic discrimination within the schools, as well as ways to assist Latino youth in adaptively coping with environmental stressors when they do occur.