Family ties spur Latinos’ college success

U. MISSOURI (US) — Hispanics are enrolling in the higher education system at a greater rate than ever, yet are still less likely than their non-Hispanic peers to enter college or earn degrees.

A new study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships finds that attachments Mexican-American college students have with family and peers are associated with prosocial and physically aggressive behaviors that can affect their success in college.

College students who maintain strong relationships with their parents and peers are more likely to report less physical aggression and higher levels of empathy, an emotion associated with more prosocial behaviors, such as assisting in emergencies or helping others without expecting a reward, says Gustavo Carlo, professor of diversity at the University of Missouri.


“The ability to develop secure, trusting, intimate relationships is a marker of positive development,” Carlo says. “Close parent and peer attachments lead to positive outcomes such as successful social functioning, academic competence, and contributions to society.”

Latinos’ positive development largely remains unstudied, but Carlo says understanding the importance of relationships in Mexican-American culture could help higher education administrators find ways to increase the number of Latino students who enroll in college and earn degrees.

Educators and administrators should help young Latino adults adapt to college life by including parents in their children’s continued development and exposing students to positive peer environments.

“The combination of students’ attachment to their parents and their peers seems to best predict their developmental outcomes,” Carlo says. “Even though the students aren’t living with their parents, there’s clearly still a connection there, especially for Mexican-American women. Since peers tend to have a significant influence on Latino men, we need to pay attention to the nature of their peer groups.”

Researchers from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Chatham University contributed to the study.

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