Becoming resilient: A positive deviance inquiry into the resilience of Mexican immigrant women

Maria del Carmen Sajquim de Torres, University of Texas at El Paso


The United States has approximately 12 million Mexican-born immigrants, almost half of which are female (Gonzalez-Barrera & Lopez, 2013). Research has determined that Mexican immigrants have the best level of mental health when compared to other ethnic groups in the U.S. (Alegria et al., 2008; Horevitz & Organista, 2012). Adverse living conditions resulting from immigration and time spent in the U.S. are believed to cause the loss of this advantage. The potential strengths or assets contributing to advantageous levels of mental health in Mexican-born immigrants have not been fully identified in research. This exploratory and descriptive inquiry used an asset approach conceptually framed by resilience and Positive Deviance. It explored the strengths and assets associated to the resilience of Mexican women who immigrated to the U. S. as adults, have resided in the U.S. for over ten years, have low socio-economic status, and experienced significant adversity. One hundred Mexican immigrant women (MIW) were recruited and screened to select a group of fourteen Positive Deviant women who were individually interviewed and provided in-depth accounts of their adverse experiences and their understanding of resilience and wellbeing. Internal strengths, external resources, strategies and behaviors that help these women develop resilience and maintain wellbeing were identified. Results showed that early and frequent experiences of adversity and the spiritual beliefs of participants framed their life experiences and helped them develop resilience and maintain wellbeing. For MIW, resilience is the culmination of a highly dynamic process of growth and transformation derived from experiences of adversity, mediated by spirituality, constant decision-making, and the interaction of several assets. Debriefing sessions with key informants, women in the community, member checking; and a clear audit trail were some of the strategies to establish data rigor and trustworthiness of the study. The importance of taking an asset approach to studying the health of immigrants is the main implication of this study.

Subject Area

Mental health|Counseling Psychology|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Sajquim de Torres, Maria del Carmen, "Becoming resilient: A positive deviance inquiry into the resilience of Mexican immigrant women" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10118178.