Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Hispanic American women college students-Family relationships, First-generation college students-Family relationships, First-generation students, Latina, Family, Culture, Academic persistence


This qualitative study explored the subjective experiences of the transition to college among first generation Latinas as well as their caregiver's subjective understanding of the student's family role and the changes that occurred in the family once the student entered college. This study explored how Latino cultural values influence the Latina students' understanding of their family role and the influence of cultural phenomena on the transition to college. Data for this research were gathered from 12 individual interviews; 6 interviews conducted with alumnae from Mount Holyoke College and 6 selected caregivers. Alumnae participants in this study were self-identified first-generation Latinas (South American, Mexican American, Central American, or Caribbean heritage), which is defined as a student who is the first in her family to go to an institution of higher learning and to earn a 4-year college degree. Data from semistructured interviews with open-ended questions asked alumnae about their family roles in the home and how those roles changed upon entering college. Interview questions for caregivers focused on student family roles and how the students' departure to college influenced the family and family obligations. The findings for first-generation Latinas included beneficial and challenging experiences. Being the first in the family to go to college, making caregivers proud, and gaining educational and social privilege were cited as beneficial experiences. Alumnae participants were found to experience cultural incongruity in the college environment, experiences of survivor guilt, family obligations, and caregiver demands as stressors as well as isolation from their communities. The pattern of communication between caregivers and alumnae as they transitioned to college, non-verbal expectations, and cultural values that prioritize family were found to be the most stressful factors to deal with while entering college. Making their families proud, setting boundaries in their relationship to caregivers, as well as integrating an identity as an educated, adult, Latina woman were experiences contributing to persistence.




iv, 87 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2010. Includes bibliographical references (p. 73-77)