Saturday, November 20, 2010

Torres's Model of Hispanic Identity Development Summarized by Kirsten Levine

Summary of Theory
Vasti Torres identified the importance of recognizing the correlation of ethnic identity and acculturation among Hispanic college students.  Torres published her first study of Hispanic Identity Development Theory in 1999, and expanded upon her research with her published longitudinal study in 2003.
According to Torres (2003), “[a]cculturation looks at the choices made about the majority culture, whereas ethnic identity looks at the maintenance of the culture of origin” (p.  533-534). While Torres did not look at the explanation of the process involved in choosing a cultural orientation, she considered the construct of cultural orientation (Torres, 2003).  The cultural orientation of Hispanic college students were analyzed through the Bicultural Orientation Model (BOM).
After extensive questionnaires and interviews Torres could identify a Hispanic student’s orientation preference.
·         Bicultural Orientation – a preference to function competently in both the Hispanic and  Anglo cultures.
·         Anglo Orientation – a preference to function within the Anglo culture.
·         Hispanic Orientation – a preference to function within the Hispanic culture.
·         Marginal Orientation – unable to function adequately within the Hispanic or Anglo cultures.

Torres’s longitudinal study identified two major categories of Hispanic Identity Development: Situation Identity and Influences on Change in identity development.  Torres recognized how the influences of where they grew up, generational status, and self-perception of societal status played a role in situating the identity of Latino college students, and how these students perceived their culture and environment.

Use in Higher Education
The significant increase in the Hispanic population identifies the need for higher education administrators to prepare for this shift in demographics.  There are two educational issues that must drive administrators to identify the needs of their Hispanic student population.  Hispanic students have the highest high school dropout rate of any group; and Hispanic students have a low college graduation rate.  To serve all Hispanic/Latino students it is important for student affairs practitioners to understand how cultural factors will affect the experiences of this population. 
Annotated Bibliography
Magolda, M. B., Torres, V. (2004). Reconstructing Latino identity: The influence of cognitive development on the ethnic identity process of Latino students. Journal of College Student Development, 45(3), 333-347.
Baxter Magolda and Torres conducted a qualitative longitudinal study, published in 2004, which addressed how ethnic identity is influenced by Latino college student’s cognitive development.  The goal of this study was to expand upon Torres’s previous research, while identifying the root of negative messages about ethnicity and reconstruct these negative images into positive images.  Participants were able to move away from a negative way of thinking.  The points of movement during the interview process were prompted by the reconstruction of knowledge and the Latino college student’s ability to integrate this new way of thinking into a holistic sense of self. 
Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F., Patton, L.D., & Renn, K.A. (2010). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Magolda, M. B., Torres, V. (2004). Reconstructing Latino identity: The influence of cognitive development on the ethnic identity process of Latino students. Journal of College Student Development, 45(3), 333-347.
Torres, V. (2003).  Validation of a bicultural orientation model for Hispanic college students.  Journal of College Student Development, 40(3), 285-298.
Torres, V. (1999). Influences on ethnic identity development of Latino college students in the first two years of college.  Journal of College Student Development, 44 (4), 532-547.


  1. I found this theory extremely interesting; especially the amount of influence that Torres placed on how environment affects a person’s Hispanic identity development. A person’s generational status, where a person was raised, and their self-perception played a key role in how they perceived their ethnic identity. It seems the influences mentioned in this theory can be applied to other ethnic identity developments, as well. I agree with Kristen on the educational issues that need to be addressed towards the Hispanic student population. I think outreach programs that speak to middle and high school students are beneficial; to help increase the amount of high school graduates and college entrants, within this particular student population.

  2. Amanda, I think that you are head on. Torres talked about how 29.4% of Hispanic Americans between ages 15 and 24 are high school drop outs. This affects the number of Hispanic students eligible for college enrollment. In her 1990 study she also talked about longitudinal studies that revealed a statistic of 32%, which represented the rate of completion for Hispanics. Hispanics have the lowest completion rate with African Americans at 34%, Asian Americans at 47% and Whites at 48%. These statistics are alarming and really need to be addressed.

  3. Torres's model helped me to better understand how theories are made. I am one who prefers quantitative to qualitative and the fact that a theory can be formulated from analyzing the subjective experience of a very very small number of students made a lot more sense to me after the Torres model was presented (the chart above helped as well). The fact that Torres is continuously adding and updating her research is a good thing for one underrepresented population, but it would be ideal if there existed committed and well known researchers for every underrepresented group. The theory is one the state could look to as it moves towards achieving its 2020 plan for higher education.