Ni de aquí, Ni de allá - Why Mexican American College Students Struggle

We know the statistics: the Mexican American population is growing at a fast rate but Mexican American students' education is lagging, particularly when it comes to obtaining a college degree. A recent study published in the International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling sheds some light on some of the struggles talented Mexican American college students encounter. The stressors that Mexican American students experience goes beyond balancing work and academic work or other stressors that a typical college student may experience. It is the struggle of change. The change that one makes as they grow and become a part of an academic culture that a Mexican American student's family and friends may not understand or accept. 

I've seen this a lot in my work with students. Whether it be as their clinician, professor, or mentor, the pattern is the same. The further Mexican American students go up the educational ladder, the more they feel like they are being distanced by their family, a term I've coined (and researched) as intragroup marginalization. It's not intentional, and it doesn't mean that the family is not proud of their children. In fact, they are very proud. The distancing is part of seeing their child adopting values, beliefs, and behaviors that are different, and sometimes in opposition to, their own culture's values. 

Dr. Miguel Cano (my former student) and colleagues have written a compelling article based on data collected on 155 Mexican American undergraduate students. The abstract and link to the study are below. Needless to say, when students feel like they are neither from here or there, they experience more rates of depression.

The movie Selena provides a great example of this, when her father, laments about the struggles of being Mexican American.

Acculturative Stress and Depressive Symptomatology Among Mexican and Mexican American Students in the U.S.: Examining Associations with Cultural Incongruity and Intragroup Marginalization

This study examined associations of intragroup marginalization and cultural incongruity with acculturative stress and depressive symptoms among 155 undergraduate U.S. college students of Mexican heritage. Findings indicate that perceived interpersonal distancing by the family (intragroup marginalization) and perceived lack of cultural fit between the respondent and academic institution (cultural incongruity) had statistically significant direct and indirect effects on depressive symptoms via acculturative stress. Results also show that 39.7 % of the variance corresponding with depressive symptoms was accounted for by intragroup marginalization, cultural incongruity, acculturative stress, and other exogenous variables.