Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Dissertation


Mexican American children--Iowa--Waterloo--Ethnic identity;


Ethnic identity is a dynamic construct whose conceptualization has raised ongoing controversy among researchers. It has been suggested that ethnic identity includes several components that can be examined individually or in combination.

The purpose of this paper is to study ethnic identity in Mexican-origin children, as one of the multifaceted aspects of the adaptation process that immigrant children experience in their transition to becoming a part of the United States' mainstream culture.

No formal assessment of ethnic identity in Mexican-origin children in Iowa has been conducted yet, therefore this study is meant to fill a gap and bring in knowledge of Mexican-origin children's ethnic identity perceptions.

This paper will study ethnic identity in a sample of 20 elementary students, ages 6 through 10, of Mexican descent. Two components of ethnic identity are specially examined: ethnic identification and ethnic preference, as well as the way the two components evolve over time.

The instrument employed to assess ethnic identification and ethnic preference consists of a set of pictures that the children are asked to select and evaluate. The task is presented through a Choice Questionnaire that consists of 12 items. A series of open-ended questions will also be used to elicit more in depth information and to provide a vivid description of subjects' life experiences.

The researcher will score and interpret the subjects' responses to determine the level of identification with either culture, as well as their preference for the Mexican or American culture.

Implications for further research will be discussed, as well as the relevance of the results for improving teaching and the curriculum in order to better meet the learning needs of Mexican-origin students.

The current study intends to examine two of the five components that the ethnic identity model suggested by Bernal et al. (1990) comprises: ethnic identification and ethnic preferences. We chose to analyze only two of the components due to several factors: the time constraints that an academic year sets, the limited availability of a bilingual interviewer, a small pool of subjects that met the Mexican ancestry criteria (yet, one of the largest in the context of the Waterloo schools) that may limit the generalization of the findings, and a great degree of mobility among the Mexican-descent population that affected children's attendance to this particular school. However, we believe that this study could stir interest in the Mexican school-age children in Iowa and could be the beginning of a series of more comprehensive studies in respect to this population. Moreover, as past research indicated, geographical location of subjects was recognized as a factor that can highly influence behaviors and attitudes (Brand, Ruiz & Padilla, 1974). Without trying to make any predictions about the outcome of this study, one can speculate however, that the unique immigration make-up of the state of Iowa may yield different results than those past and current research reported. Apart from that, as it is designed, the study will offer insights into the culture of a school that stands apart in the district due to its diverse student ethnicity (Table C2), and can help educators better understand, teach and address the needs of their minority group students.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Robert Boody, Chair

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vii, 138 pages)



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