Hiding in plain sight: Acculturative Stress and Self-Concealment Amongst Immigrant College Students

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Kurema, Caroline
Social and Behavioral Sciences
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Perceived and actual experiences of discrimination, a misunderstanding of the value system, and lack of English fluency are some of the many factors that contribute to psychological stress of new immigrants (Gil, Vega, & Dimas, 1994). This study provides insight about the experience of “hiding in plain sight”: examining the experiences of acculturative stress, self-concealment, and social support among immigrant college students. Prior studies have found that the conflict between immigrants’ cultural values and the cultural values of their new home, as well as language difficulties, increase acculturative stress amongst college immigrant students. This stress can cause psychological problems like depression and anxiety, which researchers find can be predictive of academic challenges and increased rate of drop-out (Fry, 2002). In one study, acculturative stress and shock ranked as the highest stressor for immigrant students, despite other challenges such financial and relational problems (Rodriguez, Myers, Morris, & Cardoza, 2000). In order to cope with the stress of acculturation, some immigrant students use self-concealment to avoid discrimination and attention from the majority culture, which may lead to further mental health, relationship, and academic challenges. However, studies have found that social support is a protective factor for immigrant students, and family support in particular may offset the effects of acculturative stress.The present study will explore the relationships between self-concealment, acculturation, and social support for immigrant students. Approximately seventy-five college students from immigrant families will be recruited from courses at a small liberal arts university. Additionally, community students will be recruited through targeted email and social media recruiting. Data will be collected and analyzed in early 2017.We hypothesize that self-concealment will be positively related to acculturative stress, whereas social support will be negatively related to acculturative stress for immigrant students. Additionally, we will conduct exploratory analyses to determine whether immigrant students from certain cultures and nationalities experience more acculturative stress and self-concealment behaviors than others. Results of this study will inform our understanding of the needs of immigrant students in order to reduce the negative effects of acculturative stress on this population.