Two Cultures, One Identity: Biculturalism of Mexican American Undergraduate Students

Janela McCarty, Kristina D. Hains, Bryan J. Hains, Addie Reinhard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the number of Hispanic undergraduate students enrolled in higher education has more than doubled in the past 15 years, graduation rates for this population continues to be well below that of white students. Understanding the unique life experiences of bicultural Hispanic undergraduate students becomes vital for higher education professionals to better support this unique population. The purpose of this study was to explore life experiences of undergraduate Mexican Americans through a phenomenology design specifically to highlight how biculturalism is reflected in their lives, how they navigate two cultures, and the way they construct their bicultural identity. By using rich qualitative data including interviews, photo elicitation, and document analysis, this study paints a descriptive picture of biculturalism within eight Mexican American college students. Results indicate that bicultural individuals organize and respond to their culture in terms of behavior and cognition independently from the feelings they experience while engaging in cultural frame switching. Even when participants were able to organize their dual cultures and compartmentalize them in their life, they still struggled with conflicting feelings. When cultures and ideologies of the participants clash and at times feel contradictory, these students still manage to respond and function in both cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)744-760
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Latinos and Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Biculturalism
  • Mexican American
  • culture
  • first generation
  • photo elicitation
  • undergraduate students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


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