Healthy Family, Peer Relationships Help Hispanic Achievement

A new study by the University of Missouri has indicated that Mexican-American Hispanics – who are statistically less likely to enter college or earn degrees – do better in higher education when they come from healthier family and peer attachments.

The study – Empathy as a mediator of the relations between parent and peer attachment and prosocial and physically aggressive behaviors in Mexican-American college students – by Gustavo Carlo, Millsap Professor of Diversity in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

Carlo said:

"The ability to develop secure, trusting, intimate relationships is a marker of positive development.

"Close parent and peer attachments lead to positive outcomes such as successful social functioning, academic competence and contributions to society."

College students who maintained strong relationships with their parents and peers were more likely to report less physical aggression and higher levels of empathy, said the study. This empathetic nature often manifests itself in more prosocial behaviors, such as assisting in emergencies or helping others out of altruism rather than for personal gain.

"The combination of students' attachment to their parents and their peers seems to best predict their developmental outcomes.

"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."

The positive development of this demographic is rarely studied. However, Carlo believes 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.

The report, by the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, suggests that 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.

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