Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

Latina Girls: Voices of Adolescent Strength in the U.S.

Jill Denner
Bianca L. Guzmán
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 251
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Latina Girls
    Book Description:

    Latinas are now the largest minority group of girls in the country. Yet the research about this group is sparse, and there is a lack of information to guide studies, services or education for the rapidly growing Latino population across the U.S. The existing research has focused on stereotypical perceptions of Latinas as frequently dropping out of school, becoming teen mothers, or being involved with boyfriends in gangs.Latina Girls brings together cutting edge research that challenges these stereotypes. At the same time, the volume offers solid data and suggestions for practical intervention for those who study and work to support this population. It highlights the challenges these young women face, as well as the ways in which they successfully negotiate those challenges. The volume includes research on Latinas and their relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners; academics; career goals; identity; lifelong satisfaction; and the ways in which they navigate across cultures and gender roles.Latina Girls is the first book to pull together research on the overall strengths and strategies that characterize Latina adolescents' lives in the U.S. It will be of key interest and practical use to those who study and work with Latina youth.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8544-7
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Chapter 1 Introduction: Latina Girls Transforming Cultures, Contexts, and Selves
    (pp. 1-14)
    Jill Denner and Bianca L. Guzmán

    What do we know about Latina girls? Based on national reports (e.g., Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services Organizations [COSSMHO], 1999), the common perception of a Latina adolescent is a girl who makes poor choices and who will likely drop out of school, become a teenage mother, or be the girlfriend of a gang member. Despite this popular perception, most Latina girls do not fit the negative images typically portrayed in the media. Regardless, most research on Latina girls focuses on teenage pregnancy, depression, violent and pathological behavior, and suicide. Since research and news articles overwhelmingly focus on negative...

  4. PART 1: Negotiating Family Relationships

    • Chapter 2 Los Papas, La Familia y La Sexualidad
      (pp. 17-28)
      Bianca L. Guzmán, Elise Arruda and Aida L. Feria

      Research suggests that girls’ sexual behavior is partly influenced by the family members and peers with whom they interact (Christopher, Johnson, and Roosa, 1993; Pistella and Bonati, 1998). In particular, parents play a major role in girls’ sexual socialization (Dittus, Jaccard, and Gordon, 1999). Parents are readily accessible sources of information, and parents influence their daughters’ intentions and actual sexual behavior directly by communicating their values about sexuality (Fisher, 1986b; Fox and Inazu, 1980; Lefkowitz, Sigman, and Au, 2000; Leland and Barth, 1993; Miller, Kotchick, et al., 1998; Moore, Peterson, and Furstenberg, 1986; Shoop and Davidson, 1994).

      Currently, the majority...

    • Chapter 3 Confianza, Consejos, and Contradictions: Gender and Sexuality Lessons between Latina Adolescent Daughters and Mothers
      (pp. 29-43)
      Jennifer Ayala

      I begin this chapter with an abbreviated poem pieced together with actual quotations (along with my interpretations) from interviews with Latina adolescent daughters and their mothers. This poem begins with mother and daughter voices speaking in unison in order to represent the themes emerging from the study described in this chapter. The poem then splits into distinct mother voices and daughter voices, represented by separate columns, coming back together at different times in the poem. The stylistic movement between mother and daughter voices illustrated in this poem foreshadows the theoretical movement between what Villenas and Moreno (2001) have termed “mother-daughter...

    • Chapter 4 La Casa: Negotiating Family Cultural Practices, Constructing Identities
      (pp. 44-58)
      Angela Gallegos-Castillo

      Patti is a young woman of Mexican origin who is in the process of finding her own identity within a family home culture that nurtures and supports while it also limits and subjugates her efforts at defining herself. When asked to characterize her experience making the transition from adolescence to womanhood, Patti sighs heavily and responds with the above comment that suggests that life is difficult.

      Patti’s life clearly has not been easy. She has had to contend with her mother’s drug addiction, temporary placements in foster care, living with extended family members, and also coping with everyday adolescent challenges....

    • Chapter 5 Promoting Values of Education in Latino Mother-Adolescent Discussions about Conflict and Sexuality
      (pp. 59-76)
      Laura F. Romo, Claudia Kouyoumdjian, Erum Nadeem and Marian Sigman

      Ecological models of development emphasize that adolescent developmental outcomes cannot be understood without considering the settings, or context, in which they occur (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1986). Some adolescents are raised in impoverished communities where the lack of quality schools may be a primary risk factor for teenage pregnancy (Kirby, 2002). Poor-quality school experiences among low-income youth contribute to pessimistic attitudes toward education, lack of school engagement, and high dropout rates. These factors have been identified as correlates of increased sexual behavior and teen childbearing (East, 1998; Kirby, 2002; Lederman, Chan, and Roberts-Gray, 2004; Lederman and Mian, 2003; Meschke, Bartholomae, and Zentall,...

  5. PART 2: Overcoming Institutional Barriers

    • Chapter 6 Resistance to Race and Gender Oppression: Dominican High School Girls in New York City
      (pp. 79-92)
      Nancy Lopez

      Dominicans number over a million people and are the fourth-largest Latino group in the United States (Hernandez and Rivera-Batiz, 2003). A third of Dominicans, like me, were born in the United States. It is estimated that by the 2010 census, the Dominican population will surpass the Cuban population, and we will become the third-largest Latino immigrant group after Mexicans and Puerto Ricans.

      Among Caribbean immigrants to the United States, Dominicans are the national origin group with the largest post-1965 migration. Like other Caribbean immigrants, Dominicans are concentrated in the northeastern United States, specifically New York City, where there are more...

    • Chapter 7 La Escuela: Young Latina Women Negotiating Identities in School
      (pp. 93-108)
      Melissa Hyams

      ”Pay attention in class … [and] don’t get pregnant.” This formula for success was stated by a fourteen-year-old girl of Mexican descent and iterated, occasionally challenged, but mostly accepted by all the young Latina women who participated in the research presented here. This formula, however, posed a tremendous challenge to them. The young women shared their conviction and concern that completing (or failing to complete) high school, with all that represented in terms of future success, depended on their behavior and sexual morality. They also felt certain, however, that young men, who “have a way of talking you into things”...

    • Chapter 8 Latina Adolescents’ Career Goals: Resources for Overcoming Obstacles
      (pp. 109-122)
      Wendy Rivera and Ronald Gallimore

      This chapter explores the career goals and the resources that are associated with the career development of low-income, Latina adolescents. Previous studies suggest that Latina girls aspire for careers that require a higher education and that they are knowledgeable about the requirements for their desired careers (DeLeon 1996; Reyes, Kobus, and Gillock 1999). However, there is little research on the career and educational paths of Latina girls, or what resources help them meet their goals.

      This research is critical because in 2001 only 53 percent of the Latino students who graduated from high school in the United States enrolled in...

    • Chapter 9 Career Expectations and Goals of Latina Adolescents: Results from a Nationwide Study
      (pp. 123-138)
      Deborah Marlino and Fiona Wilson

      On a brisk spring day we sat with a group of Latina adolescents in a Chicago high school. Although we were barely five miles from the heart of downtown and the Magnificent Mile, this area was a world apart. These girls lived in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods where college education is the exception, not the norm. However, they are determined to be different—to get a good education and to find financially rewarding professional careers. They want to use their success to give back to their families and make their communities stronger. We were inspired by the goals of these young...

  6. PART 3: Accessing Institutional Support

    • Chapter 10 Latina Adolescents’ Sexual Health: A Participatory Empowerment Approach
      (pp. 141-156)
      Gary W. Harper, Audrey K. Bangi, Bernadette Sanchez, Mimi Doll and Ana Pedraza

      Marisol was a shy fourteen-year-old Mexican American girl who came to the SHERO’s sexual health program wearing tight jeans, a baggy shirt, and heavy makeup. Early on it was clear that Marisol was trying to “act tough” in front of the other participants in order to gain acceptance, often talking about how she liked to flirt and “make out” with gangbangers. She insisted that she was not yet ready to have sex but admitted she enjoyed the attention she got from these gang members. When Marisol was thinking of having sex with her boyfriend, she turned to Ana, the coordinator...

    • Chapter 11 “Cien Porciento Puertorriqueña” (Puerto Rican, 100 Percent)
      (pp. 157-167)
      Xaé Alicia Reyes

      The title of this chapter comes from a popular song played at Puerto Rican festivals, where the catchy phrase gets people to sing along and affirm their Puerto Ricanness. What is it like to be a Puerto Rican female in the continental United States? We can answer this question by drawing on the responses of Puerto Rican girls. I approached this question by using literature by Puerto Rican writers raised in the United States as a catalyst to gauge high school students’ sense of identity and their reflections on whether they could or could not relate to the themes within...

    • Chapter 12 Getting Connected: The Expanding Use of Technology among Latina Girls
      (pp. 168-184)
      Robert W. Fairlie and Rebecca A. London

      Young people across the United States are embracing technology in its various forms—such as cell phones, text messaging, Web site access, digital photography, and digital music. These technology “hooks” underpin a society that has been quick to embrace new technologies and use them in creative ways. Yet not all young people are making use of these innovations, and many do not have access to personal computers. The term “digital divide” is frequently used to describe the gap between those who do and those who do not have access to technology, and the resulting gap in opportunity and influence.


  7. PART 4: Developing Initiative

    • Chapter 13 La Felicidad: Predictors of Life Satisfaction and Well-Being among Latina Girls
      (pp. 187-198)
      Charu Thakral and Elizabeth Vera

      It is easy to be pessimistic about the plight of urban Latina girls. Teenage pregnancy and school dropout are among the ever-present stereotypes that professionals working with Latinas confront. The field of psychology has done little to challenge such stereotypes. One of the long-standing criticisms of psychology has been that it focuses largely on weaknesses and deficits. Furthermore, attempting to “fix” problems, instead of promoting healthy development, has been the focus of most mental health professionals. This bias toward the negative is vividly exemplified within the literature investigating girls of color.

      Due to the overemphasis on the problems that Latinas...

    • Chapter 14 La Salud: Latina Adolescents Constructing Identities, Negotiating Health Decisions
      (pp. 199-211)
      Yvette Flores

      Ana is tall, with dark hair and almond-shaped brown eyes. She attends an urban high school where students of Mexican origin have a high dropout rate. She has agreed to participate in a focus group to discuss young Latinas’ thoughts, hopes, and aspirations.¹ She is outspoken and has strong opinions. Her parents are immigrants; they work long hours and lack the time to guide her regarding school. They tell her she should avoid dangers and bad influences, but they are unable to offer her a road map to negotiate her bicultural context at school, in the community, or at home....

    • Chapter 15 Latina Adolescent Motherhood: A Turning Point?
      (pp. 212-225)
      Stephen T. Russell and Faye C. H. Lee

      Teenage motherhood is often regarded as a significant mistake, and much has been written about the risk factors for pregnancy and early motherhood among Latina adolescents. This focus on the problem of teenage pregnancy has limited attention to the sources of strength and success in the lives of Latina adolescent mothers. How does motherhood affect the other critical relationships in the lives of young Latinas: their relationships with parents and partners? How does it affect their educational aspirations, commitment, and success? How can we build from the strengths of young mothers to plan program strategies for pregnant and parenting Latina...

  8. Chapter 16 Conclusion: Latina Girls, Social Science, and Transformation
    (pp. 226-238)
    Bianca L. Guzmán and Jill Denner

    As Fine and associates (2000) have stated, our obligation as socially conscious researchers is to “come clean at the hyphen, meaning that we interrogate in our writings who we are as we co-produce the narratives we presume to collect, and we anticipate how the public and policy makers will receive, distort, and misread our data” (108). To this end, this conclusion begins with a reflection on how this book has transformed our own research, giving the reader a clear picture of why we chose to include only research that specifically focuses on the positive functioning of Latina girls. We then...

  9. About the Contributors
    (pp. 239-244)
  10. Index
    (pp. 245-252)