Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Edwards, Lisa

Second Advisor

Belknap, Ruth Ann

Third Advisor

Burkard, Alan


It is estimated that the United States is home to three-quarters of a million immigrant Latina/o youth who do not have proper authorization to be in the country (Passell, 2011). Given their unauthorized status these youth face a bevy of constraining factors, both proximal and distal. Furthermore, migration is typically characterized by a loss of social networks and cultural practices in exchange for disorienting social and cultural changes in a new land (Hernandez & McGoldrick, 1999). The importance of friendships during adolescence, has been well documented across cultures (Hartup, 1996). While a few studies have demonstrated the positive role friendships play in educational attainment for unauthorized Latina/o youth (e.g..Gonzáles, 2010; Perreira, Harris, & Lee, 2007), there exists little understanding of the role of friendships among unauthorized Latino adolescents. The purpose of the current study was to investigate the role of friendships in the lives of this growing and vulnerable population: Latino male adolescent immigrants who are unauthorized. The study employed grounded theory research methodology (Strauss & Corbin, 1992) to examine friendships from the perspective of such youth. Twelve adolescents participated in individual interviews during which they were invited to discuss their conceptualizations of, and experiences with friendships, pre- and post-migration. Results revealed that friends: (a) are important because they provide advice and help youth navigate the new environment, (b) help youth feel part of a group, (c) influence them in both positive and negative ways, and (c) are not completely trusted and family is seen as the primary source of emotional support. Additionally, participants indicated that support and trust are critical to friendships, and that friendships are tested during difficult times. Also, their parents gave them advice to not fully trust friends, and when queried they stated that they would provide similar advice to recently arrived immigrants. Limitations and implications of the present study as well as future directions are also discussed.