Date of Conferral







Stephanie Cawthon


Although the current literature calls for generally increased attention to culture-specific influences in therapeutic settings, much more needs to be known regarding specific groups. Accordingly, this exploratory phenomenological study addressed the lack of awareness of the pendejo construct and its perceived threat as a stigmatizing attribute among indigenous Puerto Ricans. Since this phenomenon is believed to jeopardize self-other relationships including therapeutic relationships, the purpose of the study was to describe the pendejo concept as a cultural dimension of Puerto Rican psychology. The research focus included participants' personal and collective experiences of the pendejo construct, with attention directed to how this phenomenon was represented as a cognitive distortion, a self-referent in discourse, and manifested behaviorally. The study employed data collected via in-depth interviews with 8 successful, college-educated native Puerto Ricans. Transcribed data was organized by categories, coded by significant statements and distilled into structural and textural descriptions that revealed a marked similarity of participants' descriptions of the pendejo experience in terms of definitions, assumptions, emotional and behavioral responses, propensity and consequences. Psychological manifestations included escapist behaviors, cognitive distortions (people are out to "take me for pendejo"), and negative self-referents ("I am a pendejo") that translate into nonclinical paranoid tendencies and introjected hurt feelings. Awareness of this phenomenon can help culturally oriented therapists assist Puerto Rican clients toward becoming more assertive and proactive persons. This can lead to positive social change by enhancing mental health and interpersonal behavior within this population at the individual and the collective levels, as well as adding new insight to the literature.