School Counselors' Ethnic Tolerance Attitudes and Racism Attitudes as Predictors of Their Multicultural Case Conceptualization of an Immigrant Student

Article excerpt

Immigrants and children of immigrants represent increasingly large numbers of school-aged children and youth in the United States (Grant & Rong, 1999; McDonnell & Hill, 1993). In recent years, students of Asian and Hispanic backgrounds have constituted the largest proportions of immigrants in elementary and secondary schools (U.S. Department of Education, 1997). Because immigrant children may be overwhelmed by the demands and challenges associated with living in a new country (Mak, Westwood, Ishiyama, & Barker, 1999), the psychological adaptation of these children has been the subject of increasing focus in the psychological and mental health literature (e.g., Cole, 1998; Fuligni, 1998; Handal, Le-Stiebel, DiCarlo, & Gutzwiller, 1999; McLatchie, 1997; Sam, 2000).

In addition to struggles associated with their psychological adjustment, some immigrant children come from homes in which English is not the primary language spoken and/or their parents may know little about the educational system (Caplan, Choy, & Whitmore, 1991; Suarez-Orozco, 1989). Furthermore, many immigrant families tend to settle in large urban cities that have troubled school systems (Fuligni, 1997). Despite these types of challenges, studies have consistently reported that many immigrant students may experience less difficulty with educational pursuits than what might be expected (e.g., Caplan et al., 1991; Gibson, 1991; Kao & Tienda, 1995; Rosenthal & Feldman, 1991). Some reasons offered for this phenomenon include the high educational achievement and socioeconomic statuses of their parents (Fuligni, 1997), a family environment that is supportive of achievement (Gibson, 1991; Waters, 1994), and their association with an achievement-oriented peer group (Steinberg, Dornbusch, & Brown, 1992). However, academic success does not guarantee healthy psychological adjustment.

Although the educational achievements of some immigrant children are promising, little is known about the ways in which school counselors' attitudes may affect their ability to work effectively with these students and their concerns. Although attention to multicultural issues seems to be increasing in some school counselor training programs (Durodoye, 1998; Hobson & Kanitz, 1996; Johnson, 1995), some school counselors still may feel unequipped to address the mental health issues of immigrant students who experience adjustment problems (Lockhart & Keys, 1998; Reynolds, 1999). Consequently, a growing number of studies have begun to empirically examine aspects of multicultural counseling competence in school counseling personnel. Multicultural counseling competence is referred to as counselors' attitudes/ beliefs, knowledge, and skills in working with individuals representing various cultural groups (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; Sue et al., 1998). Constantine and Yeh (2001) found that prior multicultural training and having an independent self-construal (i.e., a tendency to base one's self-definition on one's unique attributes and abilities and on the importance of distinguishing oneself from others) were each positively associated with female school counselors' self-reported multicultural competence. Furthermore, Constantine (2001b) reported that prior multicultural training, espousing an eclectic or integrative approach to counseling, and perceiving oneself as being emotionally able to respond to others were each significant predictors of self-reported multicultural counseling competence in school counselor trainees. Moreover, Constantine (2002) found that higher racism attitudes and less mature White racial identity attitudes were associated with lower levels of self-perceived multicultural counseling competence in school counselor trainees. Holcomb-McCoy (2001) reported that school counselors tended to rate themselves as most competent in discussing their cultural heritage and background and how culture affects the way they think and less competent in areas of racial identity development and multicultural knowledge. …


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