Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Education and Human Services



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Amanda Baden

Committee Member

Harriet L. Glosoff

Committee Member

Michael Hannon

Committee Member

Jamaal Matthews


Immigrant adolescents account for an ever-increasing portion of middle school and high school populations. In addition to experiencing stress related to typical adolescent development, immigrant adolescents are exposed to immigration-related and acculturative stress, which can lead to compromised mental health (Takeuchi, Alegria, Jackson, & Williams, 2007). Unfortunately, immigrants as a group tend to underutilize mental health services due to a number of cultural and economic factors (Saechao et al., 2012). Schools offer an ideal setting for services that address immigrant student stress (Gonzalez, Eades, & Supple, 2014). Ethnic identity and school connectedness are two constructs that have been linked to positive psychosocial outcomes for immigrant and minority adolescents.

In this study, I investigated the effectiveness of a school-based, short-term group counseling intervention for immigrant adolescents, consisting of five 60 minute sessions, that addressed acculturative stress and ethnic identity development in comparison to a nonintervention control group, based on measures of participants’ school connectedness, ethnic identity, and psychological adjustment (i.e., self-esteem and general distress). Additionally, I explored the role that an immigrant adolescent’s ethnic identity played in predicting psychological adjustment outcomes and in moderating intervention versus control group assignment. In total, 89 immigrant adolescents (44 in the intervention group and 35 in the nontreatment control group) from a variety of ethnic backgrounds at a single public high school in the Northeast participated in the study.

One-way ANCOVA results indicated significantly better posttest measurements for both psychological adjustment measures (self-esteem and general distress) in the intervention group as compared to the control group, after adjusting for pretest measurements, however this was not the case for ethnic identity or school connectedness. A hierarchical multiple regression indicated that pretest ethnic identity was a significant predictor of higher posttest general distress, but that it did not significantly moderate the relationship between group assignment and posttest general distress. The results of this study suggest that the group counseling intervention is promising, particularly in terms of improving psychological adjustment above and beyond non-treatment. Further investigation regarding how counselors and educators can address and improve school connectedness is recommended. Ethnic identity appears to have important links to positive psychological adjustment, but it is a complex construct that may require more holistic and culturally-appropriate forms of measurement for immigrant adolescents. I have delineated the goals and strategies of the intervention so that they may inform future practice.

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Counseling Commons