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Yoly Zentella


Research on the acculturative stressors affecting the academic performance of undocumented first-generation Hispanic adolescents is very limited. The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experiences of undocumented first-generation Hispanic adolescents enrolled in a U.S. middle school and the effects of acculturative stressors on their academic performance. To better understand the effects of acculturative stressors, Bandura’s social learning theory and Berry’s theory of acculturative stress were the theoretical foundations for the study. Seven participants from Mexico and Honduras answered four questions from a semi structured interview protocol. Data analysis included Epoché bracketing, horizonalization, clustering into themes, textural description of the experience, structural experience of the experience, a textural-structural synthesis, and finally, identifying the common lived experience and essence of the phenomenon. Themes that emerged from the interviews were: limited English language skills, fear of failing in school, difficulty learning in the classroom, and two constant phrases used throughout the interviews: “I didn’t understand” and “I didn’t know.” The findings of this study assert that acculturative stressors do affect the academic performance of undocumented Hispanic adolescents. For further enlightenment, social change systems such as educators, institutions, and policy makers could become an integral part of a critical process known as social-emotional learning, an essential part of education and human development, to benefit this group of students. A process needed to acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship, and responsible decision-making.

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