Contextualizing Bicultural Competence Across Youths’ Adaptation From High School to College: Prospective Associations With Mental Health and Substance Use
Bicultural competence, the ability to navigate bicultural demands, is a salient developmental competency for youths of color linked with positive adjustment. In this study, we investigated how discrimination experiences informed developmental trajectories of behavioral and affective bicultural competence across youths’ adaptation from high school to college and how these biculturalism trajectories predicted later adjustment (i.e., internalizing symptoms and binge drinking). Data were collected between 2016 and 2020 and included 206 U.S. Latino youths (mean age = 17.59 years, 64% female, 85% Mexican origin, 11% first-generation immigrants, and 62% second-generation immigrants). Linear latent growth analyses revealed that youths who experienced greater time-varying discrimination demonstrated lower concurrent behavioral and affective bicultural competence. Higher behavioral bicultural competence intercepts were associated with fewer internalizing symptoms in the third college year. No other significant associations emerged for internalizing symptoms or binge drinking. These findings have implications for mental-health equity among Latino youths during a critical period of psychopathology onset.