New Signers: Acculturation and Coping
Previous research has examined the transition to college among ethnic minority youth and found that appropriately managing acculturative stress is a significant predictor of psychological adjustment and success during the college transition (Crokett et al., 2007). For example, Mexican-American youth who report higher levels of acculturative stress during their college transition report more frequent symptoms of depression and anxiety. Active coping and parental support, however, can buffer the effects of acculturative stress. Deaf and hard of hearing youth grow up in a culturally diverse settings and arrive at college with varying degrees of experience with Deaf and hearing cultures (Maxwell-McCaw & Zea, 2010). Whereas some youth may have vast experiences with Deaf culture, and a high level of cultural practice including proficiency in ASL and Deaf cultural norms, other youth may have grown up immersed primarily in hearing culture, with little or no exposure to ASL or Deaf culture. Consequently, students matriculating at Gallaudet face a diverse set of challenges relating to acculturation. To date, the acculturative experiences of this population have been understudied. The proposed study examines acculturative stress, coping, and mental and physical health among new Gallaudet students, with specific emphasis on the experiences of new signers.