Many Mexican American families are immigrants who reside in under-resourced, urban communities, where they are at risk for numerous stressors, ranging from poverty to community violence. This paper analyzed qualitative data from Mexican American urban youth to explore their perspectives on neighborhood stressors, psychosocial difficulties and coping.
A community-based participatory research approach was used with Mexican American youth from a Chicago neighborhood to explore personally salient experiences of living in their community. In collaboration with a community organization serving this neighborhood, 32 youth ranging from ages 12–18 with differing risk levels for violence and resilience participated in focus group sessions. Participants were asked about and discussed a wide range of topics covering (a) neighborhood characteristics and experiences; (b) psychosocial functioning and youth empowerment; (c) connection to school and community; and (d) family and cultural experiences.
Based on content analyses, three themes emerged related to stress (i.e., violence, gangs and the police, poverty) and coping strategies (i.e., avoidant, aggressive, and active coping). While pervasive stress appeared consistent across all groups, coping styles and psychological sequelae varied across the youth.
The study demonstrates the importance of incorporating culturally relevant strategies, such as reframing, support seeking, and engaging familism, when developing interventions for use in this population. Furthermore, maximizing social supports by providing access to appropriate mentors and supportive peers should be a focus of educational programming and intervention with these youth. Finally, the authors offer a discussion of how these results might inform future community-based research.