Publication Date




Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Linda Liska Belgrave

Second Committee Member

Crystal Adams

Third Committee Member

Monica Webb Hooper


The pain from combat as associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a rising epidemic among Mexican-Americans. According to a study conducted by the United States (U.S.) Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) in 1990, Hispanics have higher rates of PTSD than whites, 28% to 14% respectively (Loo 2014). This study uses grounded theory as methodology to examine the meanings given to pain, the meanings given to labels associated with pain, and the overall experience of male Mexican-American veterans. This study bridges existing gaps in the literature and serves as an important step in unraveling the influence of ethnicity on social meanings. Through twenty-six interviews, this study compares and contrasts the notions of both physical and emotional pain of PTSD among Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan veterans. In search of the definition of physical and emotional pain for Mexican-American veterans, this study explicitly assesses the meanings of pain of two cohorts; Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan veterans. Research questions addressed in this study are as follows: what are the meanings of pain, what does it mean to live with pain or in pain, are the meanings of pain stable or fluid, and what are the implications for having stationary or fluid meanings of pain for Mexican-American veterans. These research questions address whether the findings are generalized across second-generation Mexican-American veterans and the impact acculturation. Furthermore, this study evaluates whether differences in conflict or time of military experience, across the same racial and ethnic group, create different health beliefs. Findings suggest that pain is a physical and emotional phenomenon. Pain influences how a person sees himself and how others see him. The sensations of pain are intertwined with the processes of coping, disconnection, guilt, and masculinity. Pain is the overarching experience which serves as a lens of analysis for the themes explored in this study. Pain leads to, and is a key component of, the transforming self.


PTSD; Veterans; Pain; Mexican-Americans