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

17171 Perceived School Attachment and Cultural Identity: Acculturation Process by Geography

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 11:45 AM
Arlington (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Yoonmi Kim, MSW, Ph.D Student, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Jeffrey Shook, PhD, JD, Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Background and Purpose: Attachment to school is a key contributor to increasing school holding power that keeps students in school until they complete high school education. For youths of immigrant families, school is particularly important as a social and learning environment, impacting not only educational success, but also on the acculturation process. However, the acculturation process has become more challenging for some Latino youths who experience an anti-immigrant atmosphere and a monolingual ideology. While considerable attention has been paid to underachievement of Latino youths, there is clearly a need to understand how cultural identity and acculturation context influence educational experiences among Latino youths in different regions of the United States. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of cultural identity and regional education policy on perceived school attachment among second-generation youths of Mexican descent. More specifically, it will examine the predictors of Mexican cultural identity and American cultural identity with an exploration of the acculturation process by geography.

Methods: Secondary data is used for this study. The sample consists of 186 second-generation youths of Mexican descent collected by Lopez (2009). The total sample includes one sample (N= 131) from Texas and the second sample (N= 55) from Arizona. Perceived school attachment scale is used to measure students' connectedness to identify relationships with peers, teachers, and school. TAM (Things About Me), which is an open-ended scale, is used to assess a youth's cultural practices (food and music) and acculturation context. American cultural identity and Mexican cultural identity are measured by the brief ARSMA–II (the Brief Acculturation Rating Scale for Mexican Americans–II), which is composed of 6 items for American cultural identity (ACI) and 6 items for Mexican cultural identity (MCI). Correlation and multivariate regression are used to test the relationships of the variables and the general hypothesis that perceived school attachment is a function of cultural identity, acculturation context, youth's location, and demographic variables.

Results: Maintaining Mexican cultural identity is significantly correlated with higher degrees of perceived school attachment (p < .05). The most significant determinant of perceived school attachment is youths' location: students in Arizona exhibit lower levels of school attachment. There is a significant prediction of American cultural identity by cultural practices, geographical location, parental education level, and lengths of time in U.S., F(4, 182)= 10.88, p < .001, R² = .23, adjusted R²=.21. There is a significant prediction of Mexican cultural identity by geographical location (B = -.66, t(182) = -3.74, p < .001,sr² = .08) and lengths of time in U.S. (B = -.03, t(182) = -3.08, p < .05, sr² = .05).

Conclusions and Implications: The contexts of school and community that are permeated with anti-immigrant atmosphere and English-only education may diminish school attachment and bicultural identity for second-generation youths of Mexican descent. Policymakers and social workers must be aware of the effects of environmental context and educational policies that influence the acculturation process, which in turn influences immigrant youths' school attachment.

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