Obstacles to getting ahead: How assimilation mechanisms impact undocumented mexican immigrant families

Martica L. Bacallao, Paul R. Smokowski

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    15 Scopus citations


    This study explores the roles played by U.S. schools, workplaces, churches, and peers in the acculturation process of immigrant adolescents. Qualitative interviews were conducted with members of 10 undocumented Mexican families (12 adolescents and 14 of their parents) who had immigrated within the past 7 years. Results indicated that assimilation was prompted by two powerful mechanisms: monolingualism and discrimination. Monolingualism and discrimination in interpersonal interactions and social policies directed Mexican adolescents and their parents to learn English and to conform to host culture norms, appearance, and behaviors to advance in school and in their work. These assimilation mechanisms contributed to female adolescents' and parents' feelings of anxiety and depression. Male adolescents reported feeling angry and ready to physically defend themselves. Mexican families found a refuge from assimilation stress in church. Churches valued biculturalism and religious faith was used to handle daily assimilation stress. Implications for social policy were discussed.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1-20
    Number of pages20
    JournalSocial Work in Public Health
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


    • Latinos
    • acculturation
    • assimilation
    • discrimination

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Health Policy
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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