The Family Project (Proyecto La Familia)


The Family Project (Proyecto La Familia) is a longitudinal study of trajectories of mental health disorders as well as of resilience and wellness in a sample of 750 Mexican American children and their families. La Familia examines the interplay of cultural and contextual factors and processes that contribute to risk for or protection from mental health problems. The overall goal of this project is to increase our understanding of the mental health disparities of this population as well as identify explanations for the fact that U.S. born Mexican Americans have more mental health problems than Mexican immigrants. Children and their parents were interviewed initially when children were in 5th grade with three follow up interviews occurring when the children were in grades 7, 10, and 12.

Our sampling captured diversity within the U.S. Mexican origin population

We recruited families from schools selected via stratified random sampling (237 schools were arranged by ratings of community culture) supplemented by purposive sampling of higher income schools to obtain a representative sample of 749 Mexican American families residing in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Phoenix, currently the 6th largest city in the United States, is 42% Hispanic and the majority of the Hispanic community is of Mexican origin. Our sample is diverse in social class, types of residential communities, family structure, immigrant status, and cultural orientation. Our 84% retention rate is excellent for this mobile, high-risk sample.

We emphasize the role dual cultural adaptation in our models of risk and resilience

We take the position that to fully understand Mexican American health disparities and the immigrant paradox, it is important to consider how youth’s integration/adaptation to the mainstream culture (acculturation) and ethnic culture (enculturation) intersect with these processes. Thus, a unique aspect of this study is our broad assessment over time of acculturation and enculturation (e.g., ethnic identity, cultural values, ethnic socialization, biculturalism), culture-related experiences (e.g., discrimination, acculturative stress), as well as cultural aspects of youths’ social contexts (families, peer groups, schools, and neighborhoods) to examine theoretically-driven models of these dynamic influences.

Future Directions

In the next phase of our research, we plan continued assessment of the youths’ cultural contexts and adaptive functioning from ages 19 to 23, along with detailed, yearly assessment of their alcohol/drug use, and other risk-taking behaviors and consequences in emerging adulthood. In addition, we will genotype the youth to capture genetic vulnerability for internalizing, externalizing, and drug addiction/metabolism pathways to predict divergent typologies of alcohol and substance use over time. These data will allow us to test models of gene-culture interplay to account for mental health and substance use outcomes spanning adolescence late childhood to late adolescence, and to examine how the unique cultural experiences of Mexican American youth during the transition to adulthood potentially alter developmental trajectories at this stage of life.


NIMH Grant R01 MH68920-01A1. Culture, Context and Mexican American Mental Health.

Principal Investigators: M. Roosa, N. Gonzales & G. Knight. 2002-2007

NIMH Grant R01 MH68920-6-01A1. Culture, Context and Mexican American Mental Health.

Principal Investigators: M. Roosa, N. Gonzales, G. Knight, J.Y. Tein, & A. Umańa-Taylor. 2008-2014


  • Basilio, C. D., Knight, G. P., O’Donnell, M., Roosa, M. W., Gonzales, N. A., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., & Torres, M.. (In press). The Mexican-American Biculturalism Scale: Bicultural Comfort, Facility, and Advantages for Adolescents and Adults. Psychological Assessment
  • Berkel, C., Knight, G. P., Zeiders, K. H., Tein, J. Y., Roosa, M. W., Gonzales, N. A., & Saenz, D. (2010). Discrimination and adjustment for Mexican American adolescents: A prospective examination of the benefits of culturally-related values. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 20, 893-915. doi:10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00668.x. PMCID: PMC3045054
  • Brittian, A. S., Toomey, R. B., Gonzales, N. A., & Dumka, L. E. (2013). Perceived discrimination, coping strategies, and Mexican origin Adolescents' internalizing and externalizing behaviors: Examining the moderating role of gender and cultural orientation. Applied Developmental Science, 17, 4-19. NIHMSID: NIHMS420242. doi:10.1080/10888691.2013.748417.
  • Cham, H., West, S. G., Ma, Y., & Aiken, L. S. (2012). Estimating latent variable interactions with nonnormal observed date: A comparison of four approaches. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 47, 840-876. doi:10.1080/00273171.2012.732901. PMCID: PMC3583564
  • Deardorff, J., Cham, H., Gonzales, N. A., White, R. M. B., Tein, J. Y., Wong, J. J., & Roosa, M. W. (2013). Pubertal timing and Mexican-origin girls' internalizing and externalizing symptoms: The influence of harsh parenting. Developmental Psychology, 1790-1804. PMC3610781
  • Geiser, C., Kellar, B. T., & Lockhart, G. (2013). First Versus Second Order Latent Growth Curve Models: Some Insights From Latent State Trait Theory. Structural Equation Modeling, 20, 79-503. PMC3827780
  • Gonzales, N. A., Coxe, S., Roosa, M. W., White, R. M. B., Knight, G. P., Zeiders, K. H., & Saenz, D. (2011). Economic hardship, neighborhood context, and parenting: Prospective effects on Mexican American adolescent’s mental health. American Journal of Community Psychology, 47, 98-113. doi:10.1007/s10464-010-9366-1. PMCID: PMC3169846
  • Gonzales, N. A., Fabrett, F. C., & Knight, G. P. (2009). Acculturation, enculturation, and the psychosocial adaptation of Latino youth. In F. A. Villarruel, G. Carlo, M. Azmitia, J. Grau, N. Cabrera & J. Chahin (Eds.), Handbook of U.S. Latino Psychology. (pp. 115-134). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
  • Gonzales, N. A., Germán, M., & Fabrett, F. C. (2012). U.S. Latino Youth. In E. C. Chang & C. A. Downey (Eds.), Handbook of Race and Development in Mental Health (pp. 259-278). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
  • Gonzales, N. A., Jensen, M., Montano, Z., & Wynne, H. (in press). The cultural adaptation and mental health of Mexican American adolescents. In Y. M. Caldera & E. Lindsey (Eds.), Handbook of Mexican American children and Families: Multidisciplinary Perspectives.
  • Gonzales, N. A., Knight, G., Birman, D., & Sirolli, A. (2004). Acculturation and enculturation among Hispanic youths. In K. Maton, C. Schellenbach, B. J. Leadbeater & A. Solarz (Eds.), Investing in children, youth, families and communities: Strengths-based research and policy (pp. 285-301). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Gonzales, N. A., Knight, G. P., Tanaka, R., & Tein, J. Y. (2013). Intergenerational gaps in Mexican American cultural value trajectories and youth adjustment: Mediation by parent-adolescent conflict. (Paper in progress and poster to be presented at the National Hispanic Science Network 13th Annual International Conference, October 2013).
  • Gonzales, N. A., Liu, Y., Jensen, M., Tein, J. Y., Deardorff, J., & White, R. M. B. (2013). Internalizing and externalizing pathways to substance use and risky sexual behavior among Mexican American adolescents. Manuscript in preparation.
  • Kim, S. Y., Nair, R. L., Knight, G. P., Roosa, M. W., & Updegraff, K. A. (2009). Measurement equivalence of neighborhood quality measures for European American and Mexican American families. Journal of Community Psychology, 37, 1-20. doi:10.1002/jcop.20257. PMCID: PMC2633219
  • Knight, G. P., Basilio, C. D., Cham, H., Gonzales, N. A., Liu, Y., & Umana-Taylor, A. J. (in press). Trajectories of Mexican-American and mainstream cultural values among Mexican American adolescents. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, NIHMS507144
  • Knight, G. P., Berkel, C., Umaña-Taylor, A., Gonzales, N. A., Ettekal, I., Jaconis, M., & Boyd, B. M. (2011). The familial socialization of culturally related values in Mexican American families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 73, 913-925. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2011.00856.x. PMCID: PMC3196592
  • Knight, G. P., Gonzales, N. A., Saenz, D. S., Bonds, D. D., German, M., Deardorff, J., Roosa, M. W., & Updegraff, K. A. (2010). The Mexican American Cultural Values Scale for adolescents and adults. Journal of Early Adolescence, 30, 444-481. doi:10.1177/0272431609338178. PMCID: PMC2904976
  • Knight, G. P., Jacobson, R. P., Gonzales, N. A., Roosa, M. W., & Saenz, D. S. (2009). Evaluation of the psychological research on acculturation and enculturation processes among recently immigrating populations. In R. L. Dalla, J. DeFrain, J. Johnson & D. Abbot (Eds.), Strengths and challenges of new immigrant families: Implications for research, policy, education, and service (pp. 9-31). Lanham, MD: Lexington Publishers, Inc.
  • Moosmann, D. A. V., Roosa, M. W., & Knight, G. P. (2014). Generational Patterns in Mexican Americans’ Academic Performance in an Unwelcoming Political Context. [NOTE – Co-First Authors] Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35, 102-110. NIHMS552798
  • Nair, R., Roosa, M., White, R. M. B., Gonzales, N. A., Knight, G., & Saenz, D. (2013). Mexican paternal involvement in youth education among Mexican Americans: An examination of predictors consequents and moderating factors. Manuscript submitted for publication.
  • Nair, R. L., White, R. M. B., Knight, G. P., & Roosa, M. W. (2009). Cross-language measurement equivalence of parenting measures for use with Mexican American populations. Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 680-689. doi:10.1037/a0016142. PMCID: PMC2760044
  • Nair, R. L, White, R. M. B., Roosa, M. W. & Zeiders, K. H. (2013). Cultural stressors and mental health symptoms among Mexican Americans: A prospective study examining the impact of the family and neighborhood context. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42, 1611-1623. PMC3572237
  • Roosa, M.W., Gonzales, N. A., Knight, G. P., & Vargas, D. A. Children and families. (2013). In F. T. L. Leong, L. Comas-Diaz, G. C. Nagayama Hall, V. McLoyd, & J. E. Trimble (Eds.), APA Handbook of Multicultural Psychology, Vol. 1: Theory and research (pp. 411-427). Washington, DC: American Psychology Association.
  • Roosa, M., Weaver, S., White, R. M. B., Tein, J. Y., Knight, G., Gonzales, N. A., & Saenz, D. (2009). Family and neighborhood fit or misfit and the adaptation of Mexican Americans. American Journal of Community Psychology, 44, 15-27. doi:10.1007/s10464-009-9246-8. PMCID: PMC2715446
  • Roosa, M., White, R. M. B., Zeiders, K. H., & Tein, J. Y. (2009). An examination of the role of perception in neighborhood research. Journal of Community Psychology, 37, 327-341. doi:10.1002/jcop.20298. PMCID: PMC2749696
  • Roosa, M. W., Burrell, G. L., Nair, R. L., Coxe, S., Tein, J.-Y., & Knight, G. P. (2010). Neighborhood disadvantage, stressful life events and adjustment among Mexican American early adolescents. Journal of Early Adolescence, 30, 567-592. doi:10.1177/0272431609338177. PMCID: PMC2919160
  • Roosa, M. W., Liu, F., Torres, M., Gonzales, N. A., Knight, G., & Saenz, D. (2008). Sampling and recruitment in studies of cultural influences on adjustment: A case study with Mexican Americans. Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 293-302. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.22.2.293. PMCID: PMC2730376
  • Roosa, M. W., O'Donnell, M., Cham, H., Gonzales, N. A., Zeiders, K. H., Tein, J. Y., Knight, G. P., & Umaña-Taylor, A. (2012). A prospective study of Mexican American adolescents’ academic success: Considering family and individual factors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41, 307-319. doi:10.1007/s10964-011-9707-x. PMCID: PMC3244570
  • Roosa, M. W., Zeiders, K. H., Knight, G. P., Gonzales, N. A., Tein, J.-Y., Saenz, D., O'Donnell, M., & Berkel, C. (2011). A test of the social development model during the transition to junior high with Mexican American adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 47, 527-537. doi:10.1037/a0021269. PMCID: PMC3051411
  • Tein, J.-Y., Coxe, S., Cham, H. (2013). Statistical Power to Detect the Correct Number of Classes in Latent Profile Analysis. Structural Equation Modeling, 20, 640-657. NIHMS359239
  • Umaña-Taylor, A. J., O’Donnell, M., Knight, G. P., Roosa, M. W., Berkel, C., & Nair, R. (2014). Mexican-origin Early Adolescents’ Ethnic Socialization, Ethnic Identity, and Psychosocial Functioning. The Counseling Psychologist, 42, 170-200. NIHMS444749
  • Vargas, D. A., Roosa, M. W., Knight, G. P., & O’Donnell, M. (2013). Family and cultural processes linking family instability to Mexican American adolescents' adjustment. Journal of Family Psychology, 27, 387-397. PMC3683892
  • White, R. M. B., Deardorff, J., & Gonzales, N. A. (2012). Contextual amplification or attenuation of pubertal timing effects on depressive symptoms among Mexican American girls. Journal of Adolescent Health, 50, 565-571. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.10.006. PMCID: PMC3360880
  • White, R. M. B., & Roosa, M. W. (2012). Neighborhood contexts, fathers, and Mexican American young adolescents' internalizing symptoms. Journal of Marriage and Family, 74, 152-166. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2011.00878.x. PMCID: PMC3286796
  • White, R. M. B., Roosa, M. W., Weaver, S., & Nair, R. L. (2009). Cultural and contextual influences on parenting in Mexican American families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 71, 61-79. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2008.00580.x. PMCID: PMC2744115
  • White, R. M. B., Roosa, M. W., & Zeiders, K. H. (2012). Neighborhood and family intersections: Prospective implications for Mexican American adolescents' mental health. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 793-804. doi:10.1037/a0029426. PMCID: PMC3474604
  • White, R. M. B. Yu, L., Nair, R. L., & Tein, J. (In press). Culturally distinguished and contextually relevant family stress model effects
  • White, R. M. B., Zeiders, K. H., Gonzales, N. A., Tein, J. Y., & Roosa, M. (2013). Cultural values, U.S. neighborhood context, and Mexican American parents’ socialization strategies. Journal of Family Psychology, 27, 365-375. NIHMISID: NIHMS495336.
  • White, R. M. B., Zeiders, K. H., Knight, G. P., Roosa, M. W., & Tein, J. Mexican origin youths’ trajectories of perceived peer discrimination from middle childhood to adolescence: Variation by neighborhood ethnic concentration. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, NIHMS562909
  • Zeiders, K. A., Doane, L. D., & Roosa, M. W. (2012). Perceived discrimination and diurnal cortisol: Examining relations among Mexican American adolescents. Hormones and Behavior, 61, 541-548. doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.01.018. PMCID: PMC3319173
  • Zeiders, K. A., Roosa, M. W., Knight, G. P., & Gonzales, N. A. (2013). Mexican American adolescents' profiles of risk and mental health: A person-centered longitudinal approach. Journal of Adolescence, 36, 603-612 NIHMSID: NIHMS494744. doi:10.1016/j.adolescence.2013.03.014.
  • Zeiders, K. A., Roosa, M. W., & Tein, J. Y. (2011). Family structure and family processes in Mexican American families. Family Process, 50, 77-91. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.2010.01347.x. PMCID: PMC3077030