Perception of U.S. Latino Adolescent Immigrants of Their Family and Community Environment
Gannon, Brittany N.
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Session presented on Saturday, July 25, 2015: Purpose: Latinos are of the fastest growing minority populations in the U.S., with increasing trends of migration to rural communities. Latinos living in rural communities face specific challenges, such as isolation, poor mental health and limited access to health resources. Latino adolescents experience many psychosocial stressors and social isolation that negatively impact their mental wellbeing. The purpose of this study is to examine rural Latino adolescents' perception of their family and community environment and the relation to their overall wellbeing. Methods: This is an ongoing secondary qualitative analysis of a larger mixed-method study. Semi-structured interviews were performed with adolescents asking about their family and community environment relations. The sample consists of 56 adolescents, aged 11- 18 years, living in rural North Florida. NVivo software was used to thematically analyze English-written interviews. The Family Environment Scale (FES) dimensions (Cohesion, Expressiveness, Conflict, Independence, Achievement Orientation, Intellectual-Cultural Orientation, Active-Recreational Orientation, Moral-Religious Emphasis, Organization and Control) were used as a framework for the analysis. Simultaneously, free coding was performed to identify additional themes. Results: Results demonstrate a strong sense of Familismo in the adolescents' description of their family and community environment. Overall, Latino adolescents expressed a cohesive and expressive family environment, with minimal family conflict. Exceptions include lack of unguarded communication and lack of time spent with the family due to limited parental availability. Further, adolescents describe socioeconomic issues of social and geographic isolation, lack of community involvement, family economic stressors and familial pressure of achievement orientation. Overarching community barriers to acculturation for Latinos expressed by the adolescents were lack of English proficiency, fear of deportation of a family member, lack of economic resources, and lack of citizenship. Conclusion: Findings of this study are consistent with previous literature in regard to the prominent role of Familismo as a stressor and a form of mental health support and wellbeing. The FES scale is used in many studies to investigate family environments and as a guide for this analysis, the FES dimensions aided in the understanding of family and community environments. Yet, several socioeconomic themes that did not fit within this framework were identified in the free coding process. Thus, the FES may be limited in application to U.S. immigrants, because cultural aspects and rural immigration challenges are not included. Overall, this study demonstrates the need for further immigration studies addressing the mental health impact of immigration on adolescents and their families to rural U.S. communities.