Psychologist Dr. Luis Zayas of Washington University, who has spent the last 25 years studying Latina teens, believes that this rate is so high because of the teens' troubled relationships with their mothers. Usually the child of poor immigrant parents, the troubled teen is caught between her parents' values and the ones she sees growing up in the US.
American teens, says Dr. Zayas, have "very different models about what girls should do, can do and are permitted to do." For Francisca Abreu, now 15, clashing with her Dominican mother led to depression, a suicide attempt, and pregnancy at 14. Her mother Isabel wanted Francisca to stay home, clean the house, and learn to cook. Not surprisingly, Francisca wanted to go out with her friends.
"Teenagers have certain freedoms; they don't need to consult with their parents to make certain decisions," Dr. Zayas says. "That's the culture that's here, and inserted in that is the Latino family that says the family is much more important than the individual."
After giving birth to her daughter Destiny at 14 and lots of therapy, Francisca says she finally understands what her mother went though. "All she did was be a good mother, sacrifice her life for us," Francisca says. "That's all she did."
Did you grow up in an immigrant family and deal with the clash of cultures as a teen?