Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

15731 Research with Mexican Heritage Youth and Adults In a Politically Charged Environment: Lessons From the Field

Friday, January 13, 2012: 11:00 AM
Constitution E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Elizabeth K. Anthony, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Kelly F. Jackson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Background and Purpose: Interviewing Mexican heritage young people and adults about their experiences in a politically and socially charged and sometimes hostile environment involves the use of culturally sensitive methodology. Prior studies suggest a number of barriers to study recruitment and retention among Hispanic participants, including concerns about being reported to immigration and difficulty separating the role of the university from governmental entities (see Deren, Shedlin, Decena, & Mino, 2005; Sherraden & Barrera, 1995). Particularly when the study aims to understand the complexities of discrimination and bias, researchers must be sensitive to real and perceived risks associated with participation for some individuals (Hall, 2001). Using data collected in two different studies from Mexican heritage youth and adults in different stages of immigration and acculturation, this paper reports specific challenges and successes in the process of gathering information from individuals across quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

Methods: For the first study, participants from five public housing neighborhoods in a major metropolitan area completed quantitative questionnaires (n = 164 parent and adolescent, 6th-8th grade, pairs). Measures of adolescent anxiety (Anxiety Control Questionnaire for Children), stress (Daily Hassles Microsystem Scale), and academic, social, and behavioral functioning were collected. Adult (parent) measures included anxiety (Penn State Worry Questionnaire) and the level of hassles and resources within the neighborhood. Cluster analysis examined typologies of stress responses and coping skills in relationship to health and well-being and problematic outcomes.

The second study used narrative methods to extrapolate the unique life stories of 25 multiethnic Mexican adults. Narrative research investigates how individuals make sense of their lives within a changing sociohistorical context (McAdams, 1988), and is considered an empowering and culturally sensitive methodology with Latina/o peoples (see Quiroz, 2001). In order to examine how respondents negotiate contextual factors within a similar social and political context, convenience sampling was used to recruit participants from a single geographical location. An inductive and deductive coding process utilizing a Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Latino Critical Race Theory (Latcrit) framework was used to examine participant narratives.

Results and Implications for Research and Practice: Results from both studies suggest a number of challenges that are unique to the experience of Mexican heritage youth and adults in a socially and politically charged environment. Specifically, participants linked personal encounters of interpersonal and institutional ethnic discrimination to sociopolitical tensions associated with the longstanding immigration debate and recent anti-immigration legislation (SB1070) in Arizona. Study results further revealed methodological strategies that were successful in obtaining information from participants, and practices that could be refined in future research. These include: establishing trust with participants by clarifying the study purpose and concerns related to reporting of undocumented status, utilizing interviewers of similar heritage, asking unassuming open-ended questions, and using culturally sensitive measurement instruments that are reliable with Latino/a respondents. The implications of study results for practice with vulnerable populations will also be discussed.