Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth


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How resilience is generated in different cultures.

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Lists What are lists? Login to add to list. Be the first to add this to a list. Comments and reviews What are comments? Acculturation processes are largely driven by messages from the host culture; discriminatory messages push immigrants to assimilate while messages that value immigrants often result in heightened biculturalism for both immigrants and the host society.

Adding further complexity, many other constructs in cultural research, such as assimilation, enculturation, acculturation stress, segmented assimilation, and biculturalism, have been invoked under the umbrella of acculturation research. The term acculturation, which denotes the bidirectional process of cultural contact and adaptation, is often erroneously used interchangeably with the term assimilation , which captures unidirectional adaptations made by minority individuals to fit into the host society.

Consequently, the original Redfield Redfield et al. These competing unidirectional and bidirectional approaches dominate acculturation research, influencing conceptualization, measurement, analytic strategies, and results of empirical studies in this area Cabassa Berry characterized the course of the acculturation process as flowing from contact between dominant and nondominant cultural groups to conflict or crises between those groups that eventually results in adaptations by one or both of the conflicting groups. Cultural conflict may develop gradually and extend continuously over generations, as it did for Native American people, or it may be quite abrupt and intense, such as the unsettling immersion experienced by a newly immigrated Latino or Asian child who speaks no English when he or she enters a US school for the first time.

Although acculturation stages describe a sociological phenomenon that occurs between groups, a parallel interpersonal process is thought to occur among immigrant individuals and families. Within this overarching sociological process of acculturation, several theoretical frameworks have been developed to describe what happens to individuals and families during acculturation Lafromboise et al. These various approaches can be divided into two competing frameworks: assimilation theory and alternation theory. While proponents of these two theories agree that there are two criteria for acculturation — whether or not the acculturating individual or group retains cultural identity and whether or not a positive relationship to the dominant society is established Berry — they posit different views on how the acculturation process should end.

Assimilation theorists posit that individuals lose cultural identity in order to identify with the dominant cultural group. The assimilation model assumes that an individual sheds her or his culture of origin in an attempt to take on the values, beliefs, ways, and perceptions of the target culture Berry ; Trimble The dominant culture is seen as more desirable, while the culture of origin is viewed as inferior.

In this model, change is directional, unilinear, nonreversible, and continuous. Assimilation theory is so pervasive that many acculturation theorists incorrectly use the terms acculturation and assimilation interchangeably Lafromboise et al. Alternation theorists, or proponents of the bicultural model, believe that individuals can both retain cultural identity and establish a positive relationship with the dominant culture. Researchers are now reconsidering linear conceptualizations of acculturation and are revisiting the original definition that allowed for dynamic bidirectional change Trimble Alternation theorists believe that there is great value in the individual maintaining her or his culture of origin while acquiring the second culture.

Thus, biculturalism, or having the ability to competently navigate within two different cultures, is the optimal end point for the process of cultural acquisition LaFromboise et al. In contrast to the unidirectional assimilation approach, the bidirectional approach from alternation theory considers enculturation i. These cultural adaptation styles are important when considering the research on adolescent acculturation and health behavior. Several decades of empirical research findings lead researchers to conclude that assimilation is an important risk factor for increases in negative health behaviors, mental health problems, and adolescent offending Amaro et al.

Conversely, biculturalism appears to be emerging as a protective factor that buffers acculturation stress, enhances sociocognitive functioning, and increases family relationships, self-esteem, optimism, academic achievement, positive self-evaluation, prosocial behavior, resilience, creativity, psychological adjustment, and overall adjustment Carlo et al. Each of these acculturation adaptation styles will be examined in the sections below. There are several important underlying concepts within the overarching acculturation process.

Every culture indoctrinates children by exposing them to, or socializing them with, specific ideas, beliefs, routines, rituals, religious practices, languages, and ways of being in the world. The enculturation process both defines the characteristics of the group and secures its future by indoctrinating new members.

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Retaining enculturation or culture-of-origin identity alone without establishing a positive relationship to the dominant culture would indicate separation and unwillingness to assimilate. The enculturation quadrant in Table 1 represents strong enculturation and low assimilation into the dominant or host society. Separation is the adaptation style that characterizes most immigrant parents who cling strongly to their culture-of-origin identity and who find the acculturation process particularly stressful.

Enculturation is an important factor in the three phases of acculturation given above. During intercultural contact, differences in enculturation between the two groups become apparent. For instance, Native Americans believed that land was a gift from the Creator, and no individual owned this gift. Differences between worldviews make groups wary of outsiders, triggering an urge to close ranks, and defend the way of life the group understands. It is easy to see how conflict may arise. With the future at stake, enculturation prompts individuals to choose us versus them — our beliefs and ways of doing things or theirs.

The central issue after different cultures make contact becomes who has power and control, and how will the dominant group use that power. Usually, the nondominant group is strongly influenced to take on norms, values, and behaviors espoused by the dominant group. The intensity and negativity associated with this process is largely contingent upon the receptivity of the dominant group in welcoming, respecting, or stigmatizing the nondominant group Berry Further, the attitudes held by the dominant group influence the adoption of policies for relating to the nondominant group.

During the conflict and adaptation phases of acculturation, antagonistic attitudes from the dominant group toward immigrants often prompt calls for assimilation or elimination. The term acculturation , which denotes the bidirectional process of cultural contact and change, is often erroneously used interchangeably with the term assimilation , which captures unidirectional adaptations made by minority individuals to conform to the dominant group. The common notion of assimilation entails persons losing their culture-of-origin identity to identify with the dominant cultural group.

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That is, a movement in Table 1 from separation to assimilation, which a person completes by swapping the positive relationship with his or her culture of origin for a positive affiliation with the dominant culture. The assimilation model assumes that an individual sheds her or his culture of origin in an attempt to take on the values, beliefs, behaviors, and perceptions of the target culture Chun et al.

The individual perceives the dominant culture as more desirable, whereas the culture of origin is seen as inferior. Assimilation theory has been applied in a range of policies and practice situations. Both propositions are examples of the assimilationist Structured English Immersion approach to educating immigrants who are not proficient in English. In general, higher levels of assimilation are associated with negative health behaviors and mental health difficulties for both adolescents and adults Behrens et al.

In comparison to their less-acculturated peers, Latinos who have become more assimilated to the host culture display higher levels of alcohol and drug use, less consumption of nutritionally balanced meals, and more psychiatric problems Amaro et al. Most research on acculturation and adolescent health behavior has focused on youth violence and aggressive behavior. Paul Smokowski et al. Among the studies reviewed, the association between acculturation and youth violence outcomes was examined in 17 studies; 14 of these investigations examined the perpetration of violence as the outcome, and four of these studies examined fear of being a victim of violence as the outcome.

The results favored a significant positive association between assimilation and youth violence. Eleven of the 14 studies reported that higher adolescent assimilation defined in different ways by time in the USA, generational status, language use, or with multidimensional measures was associated with increased youth violence Brook et al. While assimilation theory continues to be popular, a growing body of research has begun to question whether it is indeed adaptive for a person to give up his or her cultural identity to fit into the dominant culture de Anda ; Feliciano ; Smokowski and Bacallao ; Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco Critics of the assimilation model usually support the further development of alternation theory, a framework that rejects linear conceptualizations of acculturation and revisits the Redfield definition of acculturation that allowed for dynamic bidirectional change Trimble Following Table 1 , integration, or biculturalism, would ensue from both retaining ethnic cultural identity and establishing a positive relationship with the dominant culture.

In contrast to the unidirectional approach of assimilation, the bidirectional approach considers enculturation i. Alternation theorists believe that individuals can both retain cultural identity and establish a positive relationship with the dominant culture.


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Proponents of the alternation theory of cultural acquisition assert that there is great value in the individual maintaining her or his culture of origin while acquiring the second culture Feliciano These theorists believe that the unidirectional change approach espoused by assimilationists may have fit prior groups of white European immigrants but does not adequately characterize adaptations made by subsequent waves of immigrants from Latin America or Asia de Anda In this perspective, biculturalism, or having the ability to competently navigate within and between two different cultures, is the optimal end point for the process of cultural acquisition LaFromboise et al.

For the immigrant individual and her or his family, alternation theory supports the integration of cognition, attitudes, and behaviors from both the culture of origin and the culture of acquisition. This integration may result in bilingualism, cognitive code-switching, and the development of multiple identities e. Of course, the influence of the dominant or host culture plays an important role in the acculturation process. Just as assimilation ideology pushes immigrants to accept host culture norms and behaviors, environmental contexts that actively support and value multiculturalism can also prompt individuals and families toward integration or biculturalism Berry ; de Anda Beginning in the s, multiculturalism gained traction, prompting melting-pot metaphors to be replaced with references to a cultural salad bowl or cultural mosaic.

However, considering the backdrop of stress and tension, these ethnic relations are better characterized as a simmering stew than a salad bowl. In recent years, this multicultural approach has been officially promoted in traditional melting-pot societies such as Australia, Canada, and Britain, with the intent of becoming more tolerant of immigrant diversity.

Meanwhile, the USA continues to vacillate between assimilation and alternation or multicultural approaches to immigration and ethnic relations. Conversely, it could also push immigrants to cling more closely to their host culture and reject US culture. Alternation theory has been used in practice, but few macro policies have been based on this framework. Bicultural skills training programs are another reflection of how alternation theory has been applied to practice e.

Cultural immersion programs that are commonplace at universities and colleges also support bicultural exchange and involvement. Research findings have linked biculturalism with more adaptive, positive mental health outcomes than either low- or high-assimilation levels Smokowski and Bacallao Alternation theorists believe that biculturalism is an important, positive cultural adaptation style within the acculturation process. There is research evidence for this as a hypothesis. In a study of US Mexican adolescents, biculturalism was significantly associated with increased positive self-evaluation i.

Schwartz et al. Other studies found that bicultural individuals have increased psychological adjustment Chen et al. Benet-Martinez et al. Rivera-Sinclair investigated biculturalism in a sample of Cuban adults. She measured biculturalism using the Bicultural Involvement Questionnaire BIQ , and found biculturalism was related to a variety of factors, including length of time a person had lived in the USA, age, family income, education level, and general anxiety level. Her findings showed that the study participants who were more likely to report high levels of biculturalism were those individuals who had been in the USA longer, had higher incomes, and had more education.

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Becoming Bicultural

In addition, she found that younger individuals were more inclined to be bicultural than were older persons. Most important, this analysis showed that anxiety levels decreased as biculturalism levels increased. Gil et al. For these bicultural adolescents, the acculturation process did not erode levels of family pride — a dynamic that usually takes place as adolescents become highly assimilated. In a study with Latino adolescents living in North Carolina and Arizona Smokowski and Bacallao , biculturalism was a cultural asset associated with fewer internalizing problems and higher self-esteem.

However, ethnic identity or involvement in the culture of origin is strongly related to self-esteem and familism e. Similarly, Coatsworth et al. Highly integrated bicultural identity can help individuals to respond appropriately in complex cultural situations, understanding and reconciling different viewpoints on controversial issues within their competing cultural streams Schwartz et al.

Higher levels of BII are positively correlated with self-esteem, and inversely associated with anxiety and depression, providing less psychological distress and enhanced psychosocial functioning Chen et al. Bilingualism is also connected to the positive effects of biculturalism based on research evidence showing cognitive performance enhancement in bilingual individuals Bialystok Berry et al.

In all, 7, adolescents participated, including 5, immigrant youth and 2, national youth ages 13—18 years; mean age of 15 years. These researchers were able to confirm empirically the four cultural adaptation styles discussed in this essay. Integration or biculturalism was the predominant adaptation style with This high level of biculturalism i. In this study, Berry et al. Further, these researchers found the integrative cultural adaptation style was associated with both positive psychological adaptation measured by indicators of life satisfaction, self-esteem, and psychological problems and positive sociological adaptation measured by school adjustment and behavioral problems.

In comparison, the ethnic cultural adaptation style was linked to better psychological adaptation but worse sociological adaptation, whereas both the national and diffuse styles were associated with poor psychological and sociological adaptation. Although boys had slightly better psychological adaptation than girls, they had poorer sociocultural adaptation. Finally, a meta-analysis of 83 studies and 23, participants confirmed that there is a strong, significant, and positive association between biculturalism and psychological and sociocultural adjustment Nguyen and Benet-Martinez These studies provide convincing evidence that psychological and social benefits are associated with being bicultural.

Finally, losing cultural identity without establishing a positive relationship to the dominant culture would be the hallmark of deculturation or cultural marginality Berry ; LaFromboise et al. Less common than the other three adaptation styles, deculturation may be a stressful stage experienced by many immigrants as they construct a new or integrated cultural identity. Deculturation can result in a feeling of alienation that leads to a sense of failure, low self-esteem, and ultimately poor mental health functioning Bhugra To summarize, acculturation is the overall process of cultural involvement.

Assimilation is generally associated with high levels of host culture involvement. A moderate-to-high level of involvement in both cultures marks integration or biculturalism. Separation or maintaining ethnic identity alone enculturation is associated with high levels of involvement in the culture of origin, whereas having no affiliation with either culture is the hallmark of deculturation or marginalization.

These four cultural adaptation styles and two major theories of cultural change assimilation and alternation theories capture much of the dynamic complexity within the overall acculturation process. Neither theory has much to say about cultural marginality, which occurs when a positive relationship is not formed with either the new culture or the culture of origin. Cultural marginality can result in apathy, lack of interest in culture, or the formation of a negative relationship with both cultures.

Flannery et al. In a sample of Asian-Americans, they reported that both models had adequate predictive validity for use in acculturation research. Turning our attention back to the conceptualizations of acculturation, alternation theory is aligned with the original Redfield definition that allows for dynamic bidirectional adaptations to occur in either or both cultures. Assimilation theory is aligned with the modified definition of acculturation that assumes unidirectional change from the dominant to the nondominant group.

Assimilation and alternation theories, and the various cultural adaptation styles introduced above, are fascinating sociological constructs; however, these ideas become even more critical when linked to health and mental health. Assimilation and alternation theories have both inspired several decades of research and knowledge development. Neither theory has been able to marshal enough empirical support to dominate the other. Rogler et al. Their review found evidence supporting each of the proposed relationships — positive, negative, and curvilinear — between acculturation and mental health.

The relationship depends upon the specific mental health issue e. Research conducted after this review suggests that assimilation is an important risk factor, especially for youth violence, and biculturalism is a salient cultural asset, promoting psychological and social well-being. Bicultural Stress. Skip to main content Skip to table of contents.

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Editors: Roger J. Contents Search. Living reference work entry First Online: 06 March Download entry PDF. How to cite. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. To summarize, acculturation is the overall process of contact, involvement, conflict, and change that occurs when two independent cultural systems meet. Bringing these two dimensions together, acculturation researchers discuss four different cultural adaptation styles Berry that are shown in Table 1.

The common notion of assimilation entails persons losing their culture-of-origin identity to identify with the dominant host cultural group. Integration, or biculturalism , would ensue from both retaining ethnic cultural identity and establishing a positive relationship with the dominant culture. Retaining culture-of-origin identity without establishing a positive relationship to the dominant culture would indicate rejection of the dominant culture, separation, and unwillingness to assimilate. Acculturation is the overall process of cultural involvement.

Separation or maintaining ethnic identity alone enculturation is associated with high levels of involvement in the culture of origin. Table 1 Acculturation and adaptation styles. Assimilation Bicultural Stress Immigration. Prevalence of mental illness in immigrant and non-immigrant U. Latino groups. American Journal of Psychiatry, 3 , — Amaro, H. American Journal of Public Health, 80 Suppl , 54— Bicultural socialization: Factors affecting the minority experience. Social Work, 29 2 , — Google Scholar. Bacallao, M. Entre dos mundos between two worlds bicultural skills training and Latino immigrant families.

Journal of Primary Prevention, 26 6 , — Behrens, K.

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How much orientation towards the host culture is healthy? Acculturation style as risk enhancement for depressive symptoms in immigrants. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 61 5 , — Bicultural identity integration BII : Components and psychosocial antecedents. Journal of Personality, 73 , — Biculturalism and cognitive complexity: Expertise in cultural representations.

Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 37 4 , — CrossRef Google Scholar. Berry, J. Acculturation as varieties of adaptation. Padilla Ed. Boulder: Westview Press. Acculturation stress. Organista, K. Marin Eds. New York: Routledge.

Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth
Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth
Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth
Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth
Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth
Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth
Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth
Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth Becoming Bicultural: Risk, Resilience, and Latino Youth

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