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Navigating Belonging in the Face of Exclusion: Latinx Immigrant-Origin Adolescents’ Perspective from the Suburban Midwest


Latinx immigrants are changing the landscape of the suburban Midwest (Diamond & Posey-Maddox, 2020; Rodriguez, 2020; Troche-Rodriguez, 2009). American society, however, has received these immigrants with racist and xenophobic attitudes (Pierce & Bolter, 2020). These responses are part of a long-standing history of oppression, excluding racial and ethnic minorities in the United States (Lee, 2019). Growing evidence suggests that exclusionary efforts signal messages to Latinx adolescents about who belongs (and who does not) in the United States (Su�rez-Orozco et al., 2021). This 2-study dissertation qualitatively explored how Latinx immigrant-origin adolescents from the suburban Midwest reacted and adapted to the national context of exclusion, including systematic national anti-immigrant exclusionary policies and toxic rhetoric and implication to their social belonging. Participants resided across fourteen different Midwestern suburban communities. Study 1 draws from a risk and resilience model and semi-structured interviews to understand the settings Latinx immigrant-origin adolescents (N = 41; Mage = 18.85) experience exclusion and the coping strategies they used to deal with (or defend) against exclusion. Findings reveal exclusive spaces in their distal and proximal contexts with some of the most hurtful experiences in their proximal context and the use of avoidant and active coping strategies. Grounded in intergroup relations and an integrative risk and resilience model, study 2 drew upon semi-structured interviews with Latinx immigrant-origin adolescents living in primarily White suburban neighborhoods (N = 29; Mage = 18.65) to examine spaces of belonging adolescents sought and the strategies they used to restore a sense of belonging in White-centered spaces. Results captured potential spaces of belonging, such as church and sports teams. This study also illustrated four profiles that highlighted the strategies adolescents developed to address thwarted belonging and navigate Whiteness in the White suburban Midwest. Overall, these two studies have implications for understanding how to address systems that need to be dismantled to foster a sense of belonging for these adolescents.

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