Facets of family achievement guilt for low-income, Latinx and Asian first-generation students

Covarrubias et al. / Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology / July 2021

For many low-income, Latinx and Asian first-generation students, family is a central motivator for obtaining a college degree. Yet, striving for upward mobility yields unanticipated psychological consequences. Specifically, family achievement guilt is a socioemotional experience related to “leaving family” to attend college. As a relatively understudied phenomenon, prior work has likely underrepresented the ways low-income, Latinx and Asian first-generation students experience guilt in the university. To address this gap, the current study aimed to refine the concept of family achievement guilt by exploring its different facets. The authors utilized in-depth, semistructured interviews with 34 low-income, Latinx and Asian first-generation students. Using both inductive and deductive analytic methods, the authors constructed four facets of guilt. Participants shared feeling guilt related to leaving family behind, having more privileges in the university context, becoming culturally different than family members, and experiencing financial distress. Unpacking family achievement guilt experiences of a fast-growing student population contributes to our understanding of theory and of possible support mechanisms.