It was really painful to watch:” Latinx young adults’ experiences of proximal and collective witnessing

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American Psychological Association / The National Latinx Psychological Association (NLPA)


Latinxs in the United States have been targeted by racialized immigration policies that threaten the well-being of not only those directly affected but also those who witness the hardship brought about by these events. This study explored Latinx young adults’ experiences of witnessing hardship brought to others both personally and among the collective. Data from 21 individual interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. Analyses revealed four themes across two research questions describing what types of events Latinx young adults report witnessing as well as the effects of this witnessing. Types of witnessing included (a) proximal witnessing, describing experiences of witnessing that are localized or experience-near; (b) collective witnessing, relating to experiences of witnessing among the collective Latinx population; and effects included (c) internalized effects, representing the ways that the experiences of others were internalized; and (d) mobilizing effects, in which participants engaged in behavioral changes resulting from witnessing the experiences of others. Findings point to the need to consider the deleterious effects of vicarious trauma among communities of color in the United States and further implications for practice and policy.