Dornhecker, Marianela (2016-05). Immigration-related Stress and Resilience: Measuring Differences in Latino College Students Based on Documentation Status and Immigrant Status. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Latino immigrant college students, especially those with undocumented status, tend to experience increased number and levels of risk factors related to physical health, academic, and mental health outcomes yet have better mental health, overall health, and academic performance compared to US born Latinos and non-Hispanic White Americans. These counter-intuitive results have been dubbed the immigrant paradox. Some studies suggest that a unique source of stress for immigrant college students may be the stress related to the immigration process; however, other research suggests that immigration-related stress can be present among many Latinos, regardless of immigrant or documentation status. The purpose of the current study is twofold: 1) To determine whether risk and protective factors can accurately differentiate students based on immigrant status (immigrant and US born Latinos) and documentation status (stable and unstable status), and 2) To examine whether grit, socioeconomic status, bicultural identity, and problem-solving orientation significantly predict level of immigration-related stress. Rather than focusing on undocumented status exclusively, this study compares Latino college students with unstable status (i.e., status that does not guarantee permanent stay in the US) and stable status (i.e., status that is considered legally long-term). Results indicate that immigration-related stress, grit, and college GPA reliably and at a statistically significant level categorized group membership based on immigrant status (immigrant or US-born) and documentation status (stable or unstable), and the variables more accurately categorized group membership based on documentation status. Finally, immigration-related stress was statistically and significantly predicted by lower social status and higher cultural conflict when controlling for legal documentation status.

publication date

  • August 2016