Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

Using Humanistic and Positive Psychology to Understand Mexican American Adolescents' Subjective Happiness

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

Using Humanistic and Positive Psychology to Understand Mexican American Adolescents' Subjective Happiness

Article excerpt

Mexican American adolescents (N = 131) provided perceptions of presence of meaning in life, search for meaning in life, hope, family importance, and subjective happiness. Perceptions of meaning in life and family importance were significant predictors of subjective happiness. A discussion regarding the importance of these findings and implications for counselors are provided.

Keywords: Mexican American, adolescents, subjective happiness

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The Hispanic population is one of the fastest growing groups in the United States, with Mexican Americans making up the largest subgroup of the overall Hispanic population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Only 10.6% of Mexican American adults earned a college degree (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012) in comparison with 30.3% of White adults. Although researchers have examined Latina/o students' academic performance, less attention has been given to Mexican American adolescents' subjective happiness (Vela, Castro, Cavazos, Cavazos, & Gonzalez, 2014). In comparison with other ethnic groups, Mexican Americans are at greater risk for depressive symptoms, social stress, and mental health impairment (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012; Choi, Meininger, & Roberts, 2006; Eaton et al., 2006; Goldston et al., 2008; Roberts, Roberts, & Chen, 1997; Wagstaff & Polo, 2012). Mexican American youth are also at greater risk for suicide attempts, suicide ideation, and hopeless feelings (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012; Wagstaff & Polo, 2012). Some researchers also found that Mexican American youth had higher levels of psychosomatic problems and anxiety symptoms (Glover, Pumariega, Holzer, Wise, & Rodriguez, 1999; Pina & Silverman, 2004). Systemic factors also negatively influence Mexican Americans, including poverty, immigrant policies, and racial profiling. Given that Mexican Americans might be more susceptible to psychopathology, it is important to explore factors that not only prevent psychopathology but also contribute to positive psychological functioning (Ojeda, Castillo, Rosales Meza, & Pina-Watson, 2014).

In this study, we use humanistic and positive psychology to understand predictors of Mexican American adolescents' subjective happiness. We attempt to bridge aspects of humanistic and positive psychology to understand positive psychological functioning. Given the relationship among positive psychological functioning, academic achievement, educational goals, and career satisfaction (Gabriele, 2008; Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade, 2005; Marques, Pais-Ribeiro, & Lopez, 2011), it is important to examine factors that contribute to Mexican American adolescents' positive psychological functioning. First, we provide a literature review concerning theoretically relevant factors. We focus on meaning in life, hope, and familism (Pina-Watson, Ojeda, Castellon, & Dornhecker, 2013; Villarreal, Blozis, & Widaman, 2005) as a conceptual framework. Next, we present quantitative findings from 131 Mexican American adolescents from a south Texas high school. Finally, we provide a discussion regarding the importance of these findings as well as implications for practice and research.

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

There is considerable controversy between proponents of humanistic psychology and those of positive psychology over their philosophical differences, as well as their distinctive approaches to research and psychotherapy (Waterman, 2013). Positive psychologists tend to favor identifying positive individual attributes by using quantifiable research methods and then fostering these strengths in therapy as if they were virtues "regardless of circumstance" (Friedman & Robbins, 2012, p. 87). According to Friedman and Robbins (2012), assessing the impact of personal attributes on one's social context is the only way to determine whether an attribute is truly beneficial beyond individuals' subjective experiences. …

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