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Families continue to play an essential role in the experiences of first-generation Latinx undergraduate students and can serve as powerful partners to support student retention and socioemotional wellbeing. This qualitative phenomenological study uses the notion of emerging adulthood to explore how first-generation Latinx undergraduate students (n = 16) conceptualize their families’ role in their college education. Specifically, this study shows that while students describe feeling supported by their families, they also experience distinct and unique tensions tied to this support, which students associate with their first-generation student status. These tensions include (1) the family’s unfamiliarity with college culture; (2) bidirectional behaviors of protection from stress and worry; and (3) continued family interactions. These findings, or tensions, are essential to understand and address. Doing so can improve the nature of familial support for first-generation Latinx undergraduate students by leading to better family—student relationships, family—institutional relationships, and student academic and non-academic outcomes.


This article was originally published in Education Sciences, volume 14, in 2024.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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