Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Education, Ethnic Identity, and Acculturation as Predictors of Self-Esteem in Latino Adolescents

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Education, Ethnic Identity, and Acculturation as Predictors of Self-Esteem in Latino Adolescents

Article excerpt

Ethnic diversity has dramatically increased in the United States over the last several decades. From 1980 to 1992, the Latino population rose from 6.5% to 9.5% and the African American population increased from 11.5% to 11.9% (McLoyd, 1998). By the early 1990s, 1 in every 4 Americans considered themselves African, Asian, Latino, or Native American. Since that time, the demographics of the United States have changed at an impressive rate. In 2004, of the total U.S. population, Hispanics or Latinos made up 14.2%, Black or African Americans made up 12.2%, and Asians made up 3.6% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). Increases in the ethnic and racial population of the United States are expected to continue at an even greater progression.

U.S. school systems have understandably been affected by the consistent increase of ethnically and racially diverse students. One such challenge is the dramatic growth of the number of students with limited English language abilities. It is estimated that 18.7% of the U.S. population older than the age of 5 years speak a language other than English at home, a number that doubled from 1980 to 2000 (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2005). During the academic year of 2000-2001, approximately 10% of public school students were lacking English proficiency (Morse, 2005). This was an increase of 105% in enrollment since 1990-1991. In addition, the number of public school students in the United States who were classified as limited English proficient (LEP) has nearly doubled from 2.7 million in 1992-1993 to 5 million in 2002-2003 (Morse, 2005).

Latino students are the fastest growing group of students in elementary and secondary schools in the United States (Ruiz-de-Velasco & Fix, 2000). In 2003, 40% of all public school students were considered to be part of a minority group (NCES, 2005). This increase from 18% in 1972 is largely due to the growth in the proportion of Latino students. It is also estimated that currently over 19% of all students enrolled in Grades K-12 are Latino (NCES, 2005). Many of these Latino students speak Spanish and report limited English proficiency. Despite this increase of Latinos in the United States, few studies have focused on self-esteem, acculturation, and ethnic identity of Latino adolescents (Phinney, Cantu, & Kurtz, 1997).

Influenced by the changing demographics, an instructional innovation that was implemented within U.S. school systems was the establishment of bilingual education. As indicated in Teitelbaum and Hiller (1977), the development of bilingual education was greatly affected by the Supreme Court case Lau v. Nichols (1974). Teitelbaum and Hiller (1977) suggested the Lau v. Nichols decision in 1974 "legitimized and gave impetus to the movement for equal educational opportunity for students who do not speak English" by raising "the nation's consciousness of the need for bilingual education" (p. 139). Currently, the special assistance programs for LEP students within the U.S. public school systems consist of bilingual education and English as a second language (ESL; Ovando, 2003). Bilingual education involves the teaching of school-related material in two languages, English and the primary language spoken by the student. Bilingual education typically lasts for at least 3 years and involves mastery of both the primary language and English. In addition to the instruction of traditional school subjects, bilingual education typically involves the teaching of the student's ethnic heritage (Young et al., 1984). ESL programs are designed to also assist LEP students in learning social and academic language skills as well as cultural aspects of the English language.

Throughout childhood and adolescence, language is a vital instrument that aids in socialization and emotional, behavioral, and cognitive self-regulation (Dale, 1996). It is not uncommon for bilingual individuals with limited proficiency in English skills to be ignored by their English-speaking peers (Rice, Sell, & Hadley, 1991; Tabors, 1997). …

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