Latina First-Generation College Students’ Motivation to Persist: An Attribution Theory and Self-determination Theory Perspective

Gutierrez-Serrano et al. / Journal of Latinos and Education / July 2022

Fifty-two strongly committed, first-generation Latina women attending a predominantly white institution (PWI) were asked how their first-generation status has had an impact on their college experience and where they see themselves in five years. Written responses to these questions were analyzed from the lens of attribution theory and self-determination theory. Findings show that first-generation Latina college students remain optimistic that they can achieve their goals, which enhances their self-determination to work hard to overcome obstacles. They take proactive steps to find student resources when needed and take pride in their ability to wade through the challenges of the help-seeking process. Through their association with peers from similar backgrounds, students draw strength from the knowledge that they are not alone. Fostered by their strong ethnic identity, many students envision themselves in careers that will help improve the lives of members in low-income Latino communities, a goal aligned with their values and sense of self.