Assimilation and social anxiety in undocumented Mexican immigrant families

Martica Bacallao, Paul R. Smokowski

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    2 Scopus citations


    This study explores the roles played by U.S. schools, workplaces, churches, and Latino and non-Latino American peers in the acculturation process of immigrant adolescents. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with members of 10 undocumented Mexican families (12 adolescents and 14 of their parents) who had immigrated to North Carolina within the past seven years. Results indicated that Mexican immigrant described significant social anxiety deriving from the assimilation process. Assimilation was prompted by two powerful mechanisms: monolingualism and discrimination. Monolingualism and discrimination directed Mexican adolescents and their parents to learn English and to conform to host culture norms, appearance, and behaviors in order to advance in school and in their work. These assimilation mechanisms contributed to both female adolescents' and parents' feelings of anxiety, fearfulness, isolation, and depression. Although male adolescents reported feelings of isolation and fearfulness, they also reported feeling angry and ready to physically defend themselves. Mexican families found a refuge from assimilation stress in their interactions in church. Churches valued biculturalism and religious faith was used to handle daily assimilation stress. Disproportionately, in an immigrant nation, the poor have always been the most recent immigrant group, which means they have always been "the other" - the strangers who dress differently, talk with strange accents, or follow strange customs. The stranger, the one who is different, has always caused fear. (Blank, 1997, p. 47).

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationSocial Anxiety
    Subtitle of host publicationSymptoms, Causes, and Techniques
    PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
    Number of pages28
    ISBN (Print)9781617289101
    StatePublished - Feb 2011


    • Acculturation
    • Assimilation
    • Discrimination
    • Latinos

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Psychology(all)
    • Social Sciences(all)


    Dive into the research topics of 'Assimilation and social anxiety in undocumented Mexican immigrant families'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this