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Clash of Cultures Puts Latina Teens in Danger of Suicide

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, one out of seven Latina teenagers attempts suicide.

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?

Image Source: Getty
teenprograms teenprograms 7 years
Teenagers suffering from family problems or poor relations with parents, siblings and friends are more often seen depressed and socially isolated. Depression and aggressive behavior cause self destructive behavior and negative thinking in adolescents. Parents must maintain strong and healthy relations with difficult youths so that they will realize their importance and respect to parents. Many counselors recommend counseling and parenting tips to families in crisis that help in strengthening the relationship between troubled kids and parents.
Marni7 Marni7 7 years
agreed Peachy! :)
bengalspice bengalspice 8 years
Sorry, that should read "not having an Islamic wedding in front of the Bengali community means I'm not really married ..." haven't had my full breakfast yet ... ergh.
bengalspice bengalspice 8 years
Culture is always an issue in my house. Currently my mom is fighting with me that not having an Islamic wedding in front of the Bengali community doesn't mean I'm really married ... even if I get married at City Hall.
PeachyKeen19 PeachyKeen19 8 years
Oh, gosh that last bit of my statement sounds funny but it's true! A Dominican mom is like a Jewish, Greek or Italian mother would be, you know? But they can't or don't ever really enforce their ideas on you. They want their daughters to be self sufficient so that they know you'll be able to survive w/ or w/out them, no matter what. :)
PeachyKeen19 PeachyKeen19 8 years
I haven't read through the comments but I agree with #8,9,10. I'm Dominican too Marni! Well my parents are Dominican and I'm first generation American but I speak Spanish and everything. My relationship with my mother is not perfect (no one's relationship with their parent is, right?) but I love her and she loves me and my siblings. She is increidibly devoted as a mom. The one of the toughest things is that her parents got divorced when she was young and I think that left some scars, also she would love it if I had my degree already and got married! But nothing too extreme.
Marni7 Marni7 8 years
As a Dominican immigrant I can say I do not relate to this at all either
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 8 years
I don't relate to this at all either. I am 19, I live in a Latino community in SoCal and I can say that the majority of my friends who are Latina have an amazing relationship with their mother and don't really deal with a clash of cultures. My family came to the United States because they wanted a different life then the one they had in Mexico, they fully embraced the new culture and that's how it is with most Latinos I know.
totygoliguez totygoliguez 8 years
We migrated to the United States when I was 13 and I can say for experience that I don't relate to this at all. My mom has always been pretty liberal and a modern woman. I think that this study does not has an accurate representation of Latinas because mos of my Latinas friends had a wonderful relationship with their mothers and they were assimilated to the American culture.
McRiguez McRiguez 8 years
This was opposite of how I grew up as well, but with the same results. I was always depressed growing up, and even had suicidal thoughts, HS-college, but it didn't have to do with my mother ( I have a wonderful relationship with my mom) but I think rather, just the clash of cultures and racial stereotypes in general. My parents were always very liberal and always encouraged me (and my brothers) to get an education and wait to get married and have kids. Even having been with someone for 5 years, they still said hold of on kids and marriage. I never felt that kind of pressure from them, or even my extended Mexican family, I felt it more from society. I can understand and identify with the study, but I think its for the wrong reasons and they're trying to come up with a new "reason" for the same problem. Or do most immigrant daugthers have bad relationships with their mothers? Maybe I'm the opposite... I want to settle down and have kids and I feel this pressure to be a career woman and fly high.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 8 years
This study does form a stereotype. I didn't have any of that with my parents but I did with my grandparents. They came over from Russia in the late 40's and have kept the ideals and way of life from back then. I remember that wearing makeup before age 15 and dying our hair was a big no no. It didn't stop my sister and I though. :P We didn't have a bad relationship though, just a few disagreements.
PiNkY-PiNk PiNkY-PiNk 8 years
this is completely opposite of what i grew up with. as a latina, i never attempted suicide (never even depressed) and none of my other latina friends did either. and almost all of my friends had a great relationship with their mother, as do i. this study does not reflect my experiences growing up with immigrant parents. btw, i think this study is waaay too stereotypical (with the pregnant latina teenager and all).
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