Coping Attitudes, Sources, and Practices among Black and Latino College Students

By Chiang, Lillian; Hunter, Carla D. et al. | Adolescence, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Coping Attitudes, Sources, and Practices among Black and Latino College Students


Chiang, Lillian, Hunter, Carla D., Yeh, Christine J., Adolescence


Blacks and Latinos represent 11% and 9.3%, respectively, of all students in higher education in the United States. This trend has steadily risen since 1976, but is relatively low when considering the enrollment rates of other racial groups, with the exception of Native Americans (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999). In addition, 18.4% of Blacks and 12.3% of Latinos hold degrees from undergraduate institutions (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2000), which are low percentages in comparison to those for Whites (27%) and Asians (35.7%). This has led to an interest in understanding the factors that affect Black and Latino students' adjustment to college and their resulting coping strategies. (The racial terms Black and Latino will be utilized in this study because ethnic terms, such as African American and Hispanic American, comprise multiple ethnicities, which are beyond the scope of our study. Ethnic terms will be utilized when relevant literature is cited.)

For many Black and Latino students, attending college involves a period of transition and adaptation that requires them to utilize coping strategies for dealing with problems such as maintaining enrollment, grades, emotional adjustment, and physical health (Adan & Felner, 1995; Hughes, 1987; Jay & D'Augelli, 1991; Solberg & Villarreal, 1997; Tomlinson-Clarke, 1998; Zea, Jarama, & Bianchi, 1995). Constantine, Chen, and Ceesay (1997) reported the intake concerns of African American and Hispanic American college students at a university counseling center. These included family relationships, academic concerns, depression, difficulties with romantic partners, and stress management.

Several researchers have found that support networks, such as peers, family, and mentors, facilitate adjustment to college (Feenstra, Banyard, Rines, & Hopkins, 2001; Gloria, Kurpius, Hamilton, & Wilson, 1999). Yet, some researchers have not found racial and ethnic differences regarding the use of support networks. Steward, O'Leary, Boatwright, and Sauer (1996) found no racial or ethnic differences for sources of support, type of support requested, or the quality of support among White American, African American, Asian American, and Hispanic American students who attended predominantly White universities. It has also been found that college students cope by relying on peer support (Robbins & Tanck, 1995). Moreover, peer network models have been utilized in working with racial and ethnic minority college students (Crouse, 1985; Hill, 1990). In addition to existing support networks, college students may seek help for a variety of stressors at campus counseling centers (Baron & Constantine, 1997; Matthews, Schmid, Goncalves, & Bursley, 1998; Ottens & Black, 2000; Perez, 1996).

College counseling centers offer assistance in a variety of areas. However, researchers have found racial and ethnic differences in terms of use of these centers and other sources of support. Specifically, cultural commitment, expectations of multicultural counseling, racial identity, ethnic identity, and acculturation have been found to impact Black and Latino college students' use of counseling centers (Arbona & Novy, 1990, 1991; Austin, Carter, & Vaux, 1990; Baron & Constantine, 1997; Brinson & Kottler, 1995; Constantine & Arorash, 2001; Delphin & Rollack, 1995; Gloria, Hird, & Navarro, 2001; Gloria & Rodriguez, 2000; Leon & McNeil, 1986; Sanchez & King, 1986). With regard to utilizing informal sources of support, Kenny and Stryker (1996) found that ethnically diverse college students (African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans) relied on family to a greater degree than did European Americans, who relied more on peers.

Theorists have also focused on the mismatch between the needs of people of color and current counseling and psychotherapy approaches. One consistently highlighted shortcoming is that individual psychotherapy frameworks are culturally inappropriate because of the focus on one-on-one counseling that does not consider the person in the context of his/her family system (Sanchez & Atkinson, 1983; Sue & Sue, 1999; Tiago de Melo, 1998). …

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