School for Social Work
This qualitative study investigates immigration as a defining event in the experiences of Mexican undocumented immigrant women. Specifically, the line of inquiry is guided by one main research question: How do individuals subjectively perceive their immigration experiences as shaping their sense of self? The study reviews a wide range of psychosocial literature on identity definitions, historical views of identity, models of identity development, immigration, biculturalism and the effect of international relocation on identity. Furthermore, the circumstances and reasons for leaving one's country of origin are diverse and complex for every immigrant. This study provides some understanding of a few general commonalities and differences in the experiences of Mexican immigrant women, as represented by 12 participants. Through the original words of Mexican women, this study presents the immigration stages that immigrant women go through in finding ways to bring continuity and coherence to their lives in a new land. The study reveals how these women are confronted with multiple opportunities, such as new outlets for growth and make a fresh start; losses and stressors, such as like racism, poverty, and other forms of oppression. A defining circumstance of immigration for the study participants is legal status, which added enormous stress and threaten their sense of self. Their stories portray numerous personal and cultural qualities, like courage, love, determination, creativity, and resiliency. These assets prove to facilitate growth and strengthen their ability to create a psychological bridge between their past and present lives across divergent worlds.
Ponce, Nidia A., "El ser a través de las fronteras y el tiempo: the experience of Mexican immigrant women and their sense of self" (2007). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.