Latinx College Student Narratives of Familism and College Persistence
Salerno, Stacy Lynn (author)
Reynolds, John R. (professor directing dissertation)
Radey, Melissa (university representative)
Tillman, Kathryn H. (committee member)
Ueno, Koji (committee member)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
College of Social Sciences and Public Policy (degree granting college)
Department of Sociology (degree granting department)
Latinx immigrants view college attendance as a vehicle for upward mobility and a primary means for achieving the American Dream. Despite ongoing debates over the rightful place of immigrants in U.S. society and periods of anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia in the Brexit/Trump era, immigrants still believe in education as a vehicle for upward mobility. This dissertation explores the social psychological and cultural mechanisms that underlie Latinx college student narratives of persistence in seeking a college degree, and the resources used by students who seek a college degree but whose status is “suspect” due to their ethnicity. These mechanisms include the influence of parental immigrant narratives on self-efficacy, motivation, and the use of academic career narratives to make sense of their own college experiences. Academic career narratives are individual student stories that are created in an effort to make sense of their academic journey and future. The data come from thirty in-depth interviews with currently enrolled first and second-generation Latinx college students at public and private universities in the Southeast who have been in college at least two years. All students in the sample are of traditional college age (19-22 years old). The sample is stratified by gender, legal status- whether they are documented or undocumented, and generational status (1st or 2nd generation). Students who are undocumented, are attending college through the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Data analysis suggests that Latinx students fortify their college aspirations in the face of negative experiences (discrimination, economic stress, etc.) by adopting their parent’s narratives of achieving mobility through hard work. This interpretive frame and narrative allows Latinx students to recast negative experiences as challenges they successfully endure, even badges of honor, and the resolution of which reinforces their self-efficacy and motivation to persist. Narrative construction is also a means by which Latinx students make sense of the difficult process associated with matriculating to college as first generation college students- preserving their self-efficacy, particularly for undocumented students. In this way Latinx college students construct their own narratives of immigrant mobility as experienced in specific events related to preparing for, applying to, and attending college. Another major finding is how familial ties affect how Latinx women talk about their college experiences very differently than Latinx men. While close family ties are generally beneficial to academic success, there is one downside to strong parental connections: the stress that accompanies high family expectations and present and future family responsibilities. How Latinx college students manage family-related expectations varies significantly by gender. I frame these gender differences through Machismo and Marianismo- two broad cultural conceptions that define gender roles and obligations in Latinx families. The women I interviewed reported feelings of homesickness as a result of wanting to care for family members. These women also described their beliefs and behaviors using language associated with selflessness, sacrifice and chastity. The men, on the other hand expressed a duty to provide financially for their parents, but not to provide care. These men reported feelings of irritation toward maternal requests for constant communication, as well as a desire for greater independence. Obtaining a better understanding of Latinx college students’ collegiate experiences is important for the social scientific research on college persistence, transition to adulthood, sociology of education literature on motivation and self-efficacy, and for colleges and universities seeking to increase the relatively low college completion rate of Latinx students. This dissertation extends our understanding of Latinx college students by identifying narratives that redefine negative life experiences as positive, and by providing a more nuanced portrayal of family ties in the Latinx student population.
College, Family, Gender, Immigration, Latinx, Narratives
May 24, 2018.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Sociology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
John Reynolds, Professor Directing Dissertation; Melissa Radey, University Representative; Kathryn Harker Tillman, Committee Member; Koji Ueno, Committee Member.
Florida State University