Category: Cultural Diversity / Vulnerable Populations

PS5- #C74 - The Relationship Between Ethnic Identity and Somatization of Internalizing Symptoms in Youth

Friday, Nov 17
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Cultural Diversity/ Vulnerable Populations | Child Anxiety | Panic

Research indicates that variation in symptom expression of anxiety and related disorders is linked to cultural factors. Specifically, the literature consistently demonstrates a pattern of anxiety-related somatization within Hispanic/Latino (H/L) cultural groups. Somatization may also vary between specific H/L ethnocultural groups, as may be anticipated given the broad and diverse H/L population.


One approach to capturing cultural influence is by measuring ethnic identity (EI), or one’s sense of belonging in an ethnic group as it relates to his or her self-concept and the corresponding attitudes, feelings, and behaviors. Higher EI has been associated with membership in a minority cultural group. EI has been linked to self-esteem and an internal locus of control, both of which are negatively associated with internalizing symptoms in youth. Studies with adults also suggest that EI may be a protective factor against anxiety. The current study aims to further explore the relationship between EI and internalizing symptoms within a multicultural youth sample.


Participants included 36 youth, ages 10-17 years (M=13.89, SD=2.03), who presented for a pre-treatment assessment at a University-based mood and anxiety specialty clinic. The sample was primarily female (52.8%), H/L (52.8%), from middle to higher income families (80.6%), presenting with an anxiety (63.9%) or depressive (11.1%) diagnosis as a primary concern. Youth self-report questionnaires were obtained during this initial assessment. EI was measured using of the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure-Revised (MEIM-R) which yields a total score and scores for both Commitment and Exploration subscales. Symptoms of internalizing disorders were measured using subscales of the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS).


Preliminary findings suggest that EI varies by ethnicity according to youth report in this sample, with H/L youth (M=3.53, SD=.75) reporting higher EI than their non-H/L counterparts (M=2.75, SD=.87) (t(34)=-3.004, p=.005). A series of linear regressions were conducted to examine the association between internalizing symptoms and EI, while controlling for age, gender, and child report of ethnicity. A significant relationship was found between higher EI overall and greater child-reported panic symptoms (β= 2.301, p=.051; R²=.379, F(4,31)= 4.726, p=.004). The same was true for the Exploration subscale of the MEIMR, suggesting that greater exploration of information and experience of one’s ethnic group was associated with higher child-reported panic symptoms (β=1.779, p=.047; R²=.381, F(4,31)= 4.777, p=.004).


Consistent with the literature, H/L youth reported higher EI overall, but there was also a significant, positive relationship between EI and somatic symptoms, regardless of ethnicity. Current findings appear to contradict prior studies suggesting that EI is a protective factor against anxiety, at least among youth. The larger sample anticipated at time of presentation may allow for better examination of these relationships with other internalizing symptoms on the RCADS.

Colleen A. Maxwell

Research Coordinator
University of Miami

Stefania S. Pinto

Research Coordinaror
University of Miami
Miami, Florida

Jill Ehrenreich-May

Associate Professor
University of Miami