A cultural mismatch: Independent cultural norms produce greater increases in cortisol and more negative emotions among first-generation college students, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
American universities increasingly admit first-generation students, students whose parents do not have four-year degrees. Once admitted, these students experience greater challenges adjusting to universities compared to continuing-generation students, students who have at least one parent with a four-year degree.This additional adversity is typically explained in terms of first-generation students' relative lack of economic(e.g., money) or academic (e.g., preparation) resources. We propose that this adversity also stems from a cultural mismatch between the mostly middle-class, independent norms institutionalized in American universities and the relatively interdependent norms that first-generation students are socialized with in working-class contexts before college. As predicted, an experiment revealed that framing the university culture in terms of independent norms (cultural mismatch) led first-generation students to show greater increases in cortisol and less positive/more negative emotions than continuing-generation students while giving a speech. However, reframing the university culture to include interdependent norms (cultural match) eliminated this gap.
Nicole Stephens, Sarah S.M. Townsend, Hazel Rose Markus
Stephens, Nicole, Sarah S.M. Townsend, and Hazel Rose Markus. 2012. A cultural mismatch: Independent cultural norms produce greater increases in cortisol and more negative emotions among first-generation college students. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 48(6): 1389-1393.