Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Assessing Cultural Orientation, Cultural Fit, and Help-Seeking Attitudes of Latina Undergraduates

Academic journal article Journal of College Counseling

Assessing Cultural Orientation, Cultural Fit, and Help-Seeking Attitudes of Latina Undergraduates

Article excerpt

This study assessed the influence of cultural orientation and cultural fit of 121 Latina undergraduates' help-seeking attitudes. Mexican and Anglo orientation, cultural congruity, and perceptions of the university environment did not predict help-seeking attitudes; however, differences emerged by class standing and self-reported previous counseling experience. Implications for university counselors are provided.


In the late 1980s (Casas & Ponterotto, 1984) and in 2000 (Rodriguez, Guido-DiBrito, Torres, & Talbot, 2000), Latinas in higher education were identified as "invisible." Although their representation in postsecondary education has increased over the last several decades, Latinas constitute only 6% of the college student population (Santiago, 2008). Despite low enrollment, Latinas aspire for advanced degrees (Gloria, Castellanos, & Orozco, 2005), outnumber Latinos attending college (Snyder, Tan, & Hoffman, 2006), and value higher education (Rodriguez et al., 2000). Yet, Latinas experience considerable levels of stress and mental health concerns (Duarte, 2002), perceive decreased academic support from family and university environment (Gloria & Segura-Herrera, 2004), and contend with negative personal stereotypes and multiple marginalities within higher education (Rodriguez et al., 2000).

The dichotomy of simultaneously aspiring and excelling academically while experiencing stress and distress has rendered Latinas an elite or select group that has unique higher education experiences (Gloria, Castellanos, & Orozco, 2005; Quintana, Vogel, & Ybarra, 1991). This elite status has been well-documented as hindering Latinas' educational processes and taxing their sense of well-being. For example, Gloria and Segura-Herrera (2004) found that Latina undergraduates felt distant from and misunderstood by their families regarding the rigor and requirements of higher education. Furthermore, the academic environment misconstrued their cultural approach to academics (e.g., collaborative vs. competitive) in particular when peers and faculty members questioned Latinas' competence and abilities, triggering doubt in the viability and duration of their academic persistence.

Researchers have also documented that Latina undergraduates' cultural congruity, or fit with the university setting (Gloria & Robinson Kurpius, 1996), has been frequently challenged (Miville & Constantine, 2006; Orozco, 2003). Encountering stressful and discriminatory educational experiences, Latinas are recipients of interracial exchanges with peers, faculty members, and staff members that negatively affect their sense of belonging (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Orozco, 2003). From daily microaggressions (Sue et al., 2007) to being tolerated (Ponterroto, 1990) or believed unable to succeed educationally (Arellano & Padilla, 1996), Latina/o students contend with interactions that convey disregard and contempt for them and their abilities (Gloria & Castellanos, 2003; Hurtado, Carter, & Spuler, 1996). Daily microaggressions in the educational context, such as being called on in class to give the Latina/o point of view or being presumed to be less educationally capable, build over time and add to students feeling that they are unwelcome on campus (Sue & Sue, 2008). The longer Latinas are on campus, the more negatively they perceive the university environment (Gloria, Castellanos, & Orozco, 2005). Engaging a setting that espouses a White male middle-class orientation, values, and attitudes (Castillo et al., 2006), which is a cultural context often unyielding to differences (Gloria & Segura-Herrera, 2004), can result in distress and subsequent search for resources and supports to manage the environment.

The role of culture, in particular acculturation, is a salient factor in Latina/o college students' experiences (Quintana et al., 1991) and may lend explanation to how the environment is navigated. …

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