Predictors of Distress in Chicana College Students

Article excerpt

This study examined the influence of sociocultural variables on distress in bicultural Chicana college students. Results indicated that a higher level of social support is related to lower distress. Findings highlight the importance of family and peer support for Chicana students. Implications for counselors are provided.

Este estudio examino la influencia de variables sociocultural en la anguista de estudiantes colegiales Chicanas bicultural. Los resultados indicaron que el nivel mas alto de apoyo social se relaciona para bajar la anguista. Los hallazgos destacan la importancia de apoyo de familia y amistades para estudiantes Chicanas. Las implicaciones para consejeros se proporcionan.


In 1997, Hispanics accounted for 11.1% of the total population in the United States, and they are projected to be the largest racial/ethnic group by 2005 (Garcia & Marotta, 1997; Gonzalez, 1997). Although the Hispanic population is increasing, Hispanics are currently underrepresented in higher education, accounting for approximately 70% of total college enrollment (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998a). Among bachelor's-degree seekers, demographic data suggest that White students (23.8%) are more likely to obtain a college degree than are Hispanics (8.50/0; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1998). Furthermore, Hispanic enrollment (11%) at universities was lower than White student enrollment (75%; National Center for Education Statistics, 1998b). Given that Mexican Americans are the largest subgroup in the Hispanic population (Garcia & Marotta, 1997) and have the lowest college completion rate (5%) when compared with Cuban Americans (20%) and Puerto Ricans (9.7%; U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1991), the focus of this study was limited to Mexican Americans.

Depending on geographical location, sociopolitical ideology, and group identity, Mexican Americans may identify themselves as Chicano (Gonzalez, 1997). Aguirre (1972) defined the term Chicano as a person who is a product of "Spanish-Mexican-Indian heritage" (p. 2). Mexican American activists created this label during the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s as they fought to define a cultural and political identity for themselves (Gonzalez, 1997). Furthermore, it was the role of Chicano college and university students during the 1960s that contributed to the creation of other movements that facilitated greater access to higher education and promoted gender equality (Rodriquez, 1996). Today, the term Chicano is used to symbolize the ethnic sociopolitical identity of persons of Mexican ancestry living in the United States (Skerry, 1993). The terms Chicana and Chicano are gender-specific designations that identify Mexican American women and Mexican American men, respectively. Although Chicanos may represent multiple cultures and values, we included only women of Mexican ancestry in this study and describe them as Chicanas unless the studies that we cite use the terms Hispanics, Latinos, or Mexican Americans.

Although access to higher education has recently improved for Chicanos, the rates of enrollment in and graduation from colleges and universities remain low (National Center for Education Statistics, 1998a). The literature speculates that various stressors such as financial restrictions (Morris, 1997; Saldana, 1994), acculturation (Morris, 1997; Quintana, Vogel, & Ybarra, 1991), and gender role conflicts (Baron & Constantine, 1997; Vasquez, 1982) are associated with the pressure for Chicano students to terminate their college education prematurely. For example, when comparing household incomes of families with dependents in college, Chicano families have a median income of $31,123, whereas White households earned 46% more for an income of $54,121 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2001). Thus, Chicano families have fewer financial resources to help pay for college expenses.

The situation is even more complex for Chicanas. …