Monday, January 28, 2013

La Sicología de la Inmigración en el Siglo 21.

El tema de la salud mental y su relación con los problemas que enfrentan los inmigrantes al llegar a los Estados Unidos pasa a los primeros planos de interés entre los profesionales de de la sicología. Empieza a predominar la opinión de que es necesario un ajuste de los servicios de salud a las características culturales, lingüísticas y de la identidad de esa población. Los inmigrantes muchas veces son víctimas de discriminación,  rechazo, o segregación, todo lo cual afecta el proceso de su asimilación a la sociedad norteamericana y provoca desajustes desde el punto de vista mental y conductual, que requieren de atención social y sicológica.  Pero, si estos servicios son proveídos por personas que no conocen la cultura, ni el idioma, ni las costumbres y tradiciones familiares de sus pacientes, por supuesto, los tratamientos, terapias, o programas de ayuda, no serán efectivos. El siguiente articulo, publicado por APA( American Psychological Association) presenta un detallado análisis sobre este asunto, que es vital para la comunidad latina en este país. El articulo ha sido seleccionado y copiado por la autora de este blog.

Adaptation: Acculturation, cultural identity and civic engagement

Psychological acculturation refers to the dynamic process that begins when immigrants enter the new country and begin to adapt to its culture (Berry, 1980). Acculturation1 is often thought to be a matter of personal choice or preference (Berry, 1980), but the socioecological context it occurs in is important to consider. Acculturation occurs against the backdrop of the local community of resettlement (Schnittker, 2002) and the immigrant group’s experience in the larger society (Gibson, 2001). For example, while some may adopt the American culture quickly, immigrants in large urban areas with thriving ethnic communities may continue to stay connected to their native cultures (A. M. Miller, Birman, et al., 2009). Immigrants of color in particular may encounter discrimination that limits their acculturation options.
Immigrants’ age is also an important factor that shapes how acculturation unfolds. Children learn the new language and culture relatively quickly, while adults take longer, having been fully socialized into their heritage culture prior to migration. Acculturation to the new culture is particularly slow for immigrants of retirement age (Jang, Kim, Chiriboga & King-Kallimanis, 2007; A. M. Miller, Wang, Szalacha, & Sorokin, 2009;). Because such a variety of personal, community, and societal factors shape individual immigrants’ cultural experiences, acculturation refers to more than the mere passage of time in a new country, or one’s generational status (Schwartz, Pantin, Sullivan, Prado, & Szapocznik, 2006). Rather, there are diverse and multifaceted ways that immigrants navigate their way through living in a culture that is different from the one they were born into.
An important distinction has been made in psychology between acculturation and assimilation. Acculturation has been defined as a bilinear2 process occurring with respect to both the new and the heritage culture.3 Assimilation, on the other hand, refers to a particular type of acculturation that involves adopting the new culture while simultaneously letting go of attachment to the heritage culture. Early theories of acculturation assumed that such an either/or acculturation process was the only possible and desirable outcome for immigrants (Stonequist, 1937). However, today’s immigrants may acculturate to the American culture without severing their connection to the heritage culture, and some research suggests that there are advantages to biculturalism (Berry, 1980; LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993; Szapocznik, Scopetta, Kurtines & Aranalde, 1978).
Acculturation is a multidimensional process that involves changes in many aspects of immigrants’ lives. A number of dimensions of acculturation have been theorized and assessed in research, including language competence and use, cultural identity, attitudes and values, types of food and music preferred, media use, ethnic pride, ethnic social relations, cultural familiarity and social customs (see Yoon, Langrehr & Ong, 2010, for a review). Acculturation may occur in stages, with immigrants learning the new language first, followed by behavioral participation in the culture (Birman & Trickett, 2001; M. Gordon, 1964; R. M. Lee, Yoon, & Liu-Tom, 2006; cited in Yoon et al., 2010). Less observable aspects of acculturation, such as changes in identity and values, are thought to take longer than behavioral changes (Birman & Trickett, 2001; Marino, Stuart, & Minas, 2000). Thus, immigrants who have lived in the United States for a long time and appear to have adopted the American lifestyle may continue to maintain strong identification with, and hold the values of, their culture of origin. This has important implications for providing psychological services to this population (see Immigrant Populations in Clinical Contexts).
Language acculturation
Learning the new language is a critical task for immigrant adults and children in accessing the schooling and employment necessary for survival in the new country. For adults, learning a new language is more difficult than it is for children, and some never attain English-language fluency. But sociological research suggests that immigrant groups today are learning English (Waters & Jiménez, 2005), and language assimilation is occurring by the second and third generations as it did in prior immigration waves (Alba et al., 2002; U.S. Department of Education, 1995).
School-age immigrant children learn the new language relatively quickly, becoming conversationally fluent within 2 years after arriving in the new country, though cognitive-academic language proficiency takes much longer, 5 or more years (August & Shanahan, 2006; V. P. Collier, 1987; Cummins, 1984; Klesmer, 1994; Muñoz-Sandoval, Cummins, Alvarado & Ruef, 1998). English becomes the dominant language for most immigrant children within 4 to 5 years following immigration (Birman & Trickett, 2001), and for many, their native language atrophies (Wong Fillmore, 2000).
Behavioral acculturation
Behavioral acculturation refers to the extent of immigrants’ participation in their culture of origin and/or new culture. While adopting American ways, immigrant adults continue to participate in their heritage culture, have friendships with others from the same country with whom they can share interests and values, consume ethnic foods, and read/view native-language print and electronic media. Immigrant children, however, behaviorally adapt to the U.S. culture quickly. Adolescents in particular are exposed to American culture through movies, music, television and many other increasingly available electronic outlets. Even before immigrating, many youth have been exposed to, and perhaps have idealized, these aspects of American culture. The pull of American culture, with the freedoms it allows to young adults, can be very enticing. Perhaps for this reason, research suggests that acculturation to American culture is related to high-risk behavior for immigrant adolescents, including high-risk sexual behavior (Afable-Munsuz & Brindis, 2006; Jimenez, Potts & Jimenez, 2002; Upchurch, Aneshensel, Mudgal & McNeely, 2001), smoking, drinking (Castro, Stein, & Bentler, 2009; Gil, Wagner & Vega, 2000), and substance use (Chen, Unger, Cruz, & Johnson, 1999; Hahm, Lahiff & Guterman, 2003; Unger et al., 2002).
Cultural and ethnic identity
The ways in which immigrants identify with their heritage, host or both cultures is part of the acculturation process (Birman & Trickett, 2001; Phinney, 1990). National identity refers to immigrants’ sense of belonging to the new society (Phinney, Horenczyk, Liebkind, & Vedder, 2001; Verkuyten & Brug, 2001) and cultural or ethnic identity involves immigrants’ sense of belonging to, positive regard for, and pride in their native culture (Phinney, 1996). As with other types of acculturation, immigrants may assimilate (give up their native cultural identity and consider themselves American), identify themselves only with their native culture, or develop a “bicultural” identity. Some studies have found that a combination of strong ethnic identity and strong national identity promotes the best adaption for immigrants (Birman, Persky, & Chan, 2010; Deaux, 2006; Phinney et al., 2001; C. Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001).
However, studies have also found that when subjected to sustained discriminatory experiences, immigrant adolescents may not become bicultural (Berry, Phinney, Sam & Vedder, 2006) but may instead adopt “reactive identification,” embracing their cultural identity while rejecting American culture, after having been rejected by it (Birman & Trickett, 2001; Portes & Zhou, 1993; Rumbaut, Gonzales, Komaie, Morgan & Tafoya-Estrada, 2006; Sirin & Fine, 2008; C. Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001).
In a number of studies, strong identification with one’s ethnic group has been found to be associated with positive feelings toward the self for immigrant adolescents, producing more positive educational, health, and family outcomes, particularly for Latino adolescents (R. O. Martinez & Dukes, 1997; Phinney, Cantu, & Kurtz, 1997; N. Rodriguez, Mira, Páez, & Myers, 2007; Schwartz, Zamboanga, & Jarvis, 2007; Smokowski & Bacallao, 2007). Ethnic identity is theorized to be particularly beneficial to immigrants who encounter extensive discrimination in the host society (Deaux, 2006; Kasinitz, Mollenkopf, Waters, & Holdaway, 2008; C. Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2000). At the same time, if the larger society expects immigrants to assimilate, becoming more “ethnic” in identity and behavior can elicit even further discrimination and marginalization. This may be one reason why a few recent studies with Asian college students (R. Lee, 2003, 2005) and Americans of Chinese descent (Yip et al., 2008) suggest that ethnic identity may not have a protective effect or may even exacerbate the impact of discrimination on mental health. These findings suggest that discrimination limits acculturative options, and even strong identification and positive regard for one’s own ethnic group can have negative consequences for mental health, as may be the case for Asian Americans.
Other dimensions of acculturation have also been studied, such as values. Adopting values of the new society may be the most subtle aspect of culture change (Marino et al., 2000) that occurs over the span of generations. Several studies suggest that immigrant parents continue to socialize their children into traditional values of the heritage culture (Kwak & Berry, 2001; Patel, Power, & Bhavnagri, 1996; Phalet & Schonpflug, 2001).
In summary, a multidimensional process of acculturation occurs differently for children and adults. As a result, acculturation “gaps” develop between parents and children in immigrant families. While such acculturation gaps are normative in immigrant families, they have been found to be linked to intergenerational conflict in some studies (Birman, 2006).

Acculturation and mental health

The process of acculturation may lead to acculturative stress (Berry, 1997; Lazarus, 1997), defined as stressful life events thought to be associated with the acculturation process. The process of learning a new language and culture may be stressful in its own right, as immigrants may feel a threat to their sense of self-efficacy. In addition, reconciling the norms and values of the new and the old culture may be difficult (Berry, 1997; N. Rodriguez, Myers, Mira, Flores, & Garcia-Hernandez, 2002), particularly when they conflict (Liebkind & Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000; Rudmin & Ahmadzadeh, 2001). Discrimination as an immigrant and/or as a member of a racial minority group is also considered a component of acculturative stress (D. Chavez, Moran, Reid, & Lopez, 1997; Hwang & Ting, 2008; Suarez-Morales, Dillion, & Szapocznik, 2007; Vinokurov, Trickett, & Birman, 2002).
Much research in psychology has addressed the question of whether the ways in which immigrants acculturate may hold advantages for their mental health (e.g., Rogler, Cortes, & Malgady, 1991), but the findings are inconsistent across studies and immigrant groups. For example, assimilation has been found to have benefits for Asian immigrants. It was associated with less acculturative stress, with reduced depression for Korean immigrants in California (Ayers et al., 2009), and with better mental health indicators in several other Asian immigrant groups (Hwang & Myers, 2007; ; Schnittker, 2002; Yeh, 2003). However, assimilation has also been associated with poor mental health for Latino immigrants (Burnam, Hough, Karno, Escobar, & Telles, 1987; F. I. Rivera, 2007; Torres, 2010).4
Unfortunately, interpretation of findings from studies that use assimilation measures is difficult because they assume that acculturation to the host and to native cultures are mutually exclusive (Cuellar, Harris, & Jasso, 1980; Suinn, Knoo, & Ahuna, 1995). Items in such measures generally ask respondents to choose their cultural affiliation, so that those endorsing high acculturation to the host culture are simultaneously endorsing low attachment to their heritage culture. As a result, the negative impact of assimilation on psychological adjustment found in some studies may not be a function of American acculturation but rather of loss of attachment to the native culture, which is confounded with American acculturation on these measures (Birman & Taylor-Ritzler, 2007; Schwartz et al., 2010).
Increasingly, researchers are using independent or bilinear measures of acculturation to both cultures and finding that immigrants benefit from acculturation to both the new and the native culture. For example, Y. Oh, Koeske, and Sales (2002) found that English language use and association with Americans reduced depression for Korean immigrants, as did maintaining Korean traditions. For Latino adolescents, acculturation to American culture was associated with reduced acculturative stress and increased self-esteem (Schwartz et al., 2007). Acculturation to the heritage culture also predicted increased self-esteem.
From a contextual perspective, there is no “best” acculturative style independent of context (Birman, Trickett, & Buchanan, 2005). Rather, whether a particular way of acculturating is beneficial depends on the kinds of cultural skills needed for successful adaptation within each particular microsystem. While some settings, such as workplaces or schools, are predominantly culturally American, others, such as an immigrant’s ethnic neighborhood and home environment, are predominantly of the heritage culture. From this perspective, acculturation to both cultures provides access to different kinds of resources that are useful in different settings and that, in turn, are linked to positive mental health outcomes (Birman & Taylor-Ritzler, 2007; Oppedal, Roysamb, & Sam, 2004; Shen & Takeuchi, 2001). For example, Oppedal et al. found that for immigrant adolescents in Norway, increased competence in both their ethnic and host culture was linked to improvement in mental health over the course of a year. Specifically, those with higher ethnic cultural competence had more support from family, and those higher on host cultural competence had more support from classroom teachers and peers. In turn, family and classroom support were both related to mental health.
Similarly, Birman & Taylor-Ritzler (2007) found that both Russian and American acculturation were predictors of reduced symptoms of distress for Soviet adolescent immigrants to the United States. While American acculturation had a direct effect, the impact of Russian acculturation on distress was through improving family adjustment.
In summary, acculturation to both heritage and host cultures provides immigrants with important cultural skills and repertoires that assist them across the culturally different microsystems. The implications are that settings and programs designed to assist immigrants with adapting to life in their new country must value both the need to learn the ways of the new culture and the need to maintain a connection with the old.
Intergenerational differences in acculturation
Family acculturation gaps extend across a variety of dimensions of acculturation and aspects of parent–child relationships, and immigrant parents and children increasingly live in different cultural worlds. Because parents are immersed predominantly in one culture and children in another, immigrant parents often know little of their children’s lives outside the home. Immigrant parents are unfamiliar with how U.S. schools operate and may not have the English language skills to communicate with the school (Delgado-Gaitan, 1985, 1992, 1994; Grolnick, Benjet, Kurowski, & Apostoleris, 1997). Immigrant parents may also lack knowledge and connection to a variety of programs and resources available to their children outside or after school, and they may find it difficult to provide guidance and monitor their children’s activities (Hao & Bonstead-Bruns, 1998; Mau, 1997).
For immigrant children, it can be difficult to live with the expectations and demands of one culture in the home and another at school. Children may not turn to their parents with problems and concerns, believing their parents do not know the culture and its institutions well enough to provide them with good advice or assistance. In addition, they may see their parents as burdened with the multiple stresses of resettlement and therefore psychologically unavailable (Birman, 2006; C. Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001). Extensive research with a variety of immigrant groups has documented the problems caused by acculturation gaps in studies with Asian (Buki, Ma, Strom, & Strom, 2003; Costigan & Dokis, 2006; Farver, Bhadha, & Narang, 2002; Ho & Birman, 2010; R. M. Lee, Choe, Kim, & Ngo, 2000), Latino (C. R. Martinez, 2006; Schofield, Parke, Kim, & Coltrane, 2008; Smokowski, Rose, & Bacallao, 2008), and European (Birman, 2006) immigrant families.

Social trust and civic engagement

A marker of whether new immigrants feel welcomed and accepted in U.S. society is whether they are able to develop social trust and become civically engaged.
Social trust
Democratic societies require citizens to interact regularly with each other for political, economic and social reasons (Gardner, 2007; Hardin, 2002; Portes, 1998; Putnam, 2000). For this interaction to occur, individuals must be willing to extend a certain level of trust to those with whom they come in contact. Thus, social trust and civic participation are inextricably linked (Cook, 2001; C. Flanagan, 2003; Levine, 2008; Putnam, 2000). Without such trust, people will close themselves off from others as a means of protection. When people refuse to “talk to strangers” (Allen, 2004), democratic society suffers (Putnam, 2000; Uslaner, 2000). The current atmosphere of general social distrust in the United States (Putnam, 2000; Putnam & Feldstein, 2004) coincides with, and is complicated by, the highest levels of immigration since the last great wave of migration from 1880 to 1920.
Civic engagement
The ways in which immigrant-origin youth are integrated into U.S. society and the ways in which they participate civically will no doubt affect the kind of society the United States will become in the coming decades (Stepick, Stepick, & Labissiere, 2008). To date, research on the civic engagement of immigrant-origin youth has been conspicuously sparse (Jensen & Flanagan, 2008). While historically, civic engagement was defined as voting, now it is conceptualized as a more complex and differentiated phenomenon. Definitions of civic engagement include attitudes toward political participation, knowledge about government, commitment to society, activities that help those in need, and collective action to fight for social justice (C. Flanagan, Gallay, Gill, Gallay, & Nti, 2005; Metz & Youniss, 2005; Morsillo & Prilleltensky, 2007; Torney-Purta, Barber, & Wilkenfeld, 2007). For immigrant individuals, such involvement in U.S. society, politics and communities represents successful integration into the life of the country.
Some researchers, including Huntington (2004), have claimed that the immigrant population represents a threat to American civil society because of its alleged divided loyalties. Yet the few existing studies suggest these fears may be misplaced. Children born in the United States to immigrant parents show levels of civic engagement that “match or exceed those of natives” (M. H. Lopez & Marcelo, 2008, p. 66). Similarly, South Asian and Latino/a immigrant youth were found to be highly civically engaged and view this engagement as an important part of their identities (Jensen, 2008). Likewise, immigrant civic engagement was found to be similar to that of nonimmigrant college freshmen in a large comparative mixed-methods study (Stepick et al., 2008).
It is important to note that immigrant civic engagement may be underestimated in many studies because immigrant-specific forms of civic engagement, such as interpreting, translating, advocating, and filling out official documents, are often overlooked in traditional measures in the field (Jensen & Flanagan, 2008; Stepick et al., 2008). As is true of other marginalized groups, immigrants may become engaged in their own ethnic communities (Bedolla, 2000; Hill & Moreno, 1996; Rhoads, Lee, & Yamada, 2002) through acts of civil protest or by working in local community organizations rather than engaging with mainstream institutions where they may not feel welcomed.
Although non-naturalized immigrant adults cannot vote, they can be involved in an array of civic projects. With citizenship and second-generation status come greater civic and political participation (M. H. Lopez & Marcelo, 2008; Stoll & Wong, 2007). Not speaking English blocks participation in some activities for the first generation. On the other hand, bilingual competencies can serve as tools for civic engagement among immigrant youth (Ramakrishnan & Baldasarre, 2004) who become involved as culture brokers.
Trust and civic engagement do not occur in a vacuum. Context and current events set the stage for trust and mistrust in all their empirical and conceptual iterations. It remains to be seen, for instance, how the general climate of distrust in the United States and the current crisis over immigration shape immigrant youths’ civic trust and engagement. Research is needed on how the current political climate influences trust in the culture and future civic engagement. There is some evidence that immigrant adults tend to be generally optimistic (Kao & Tienda, 1995) and have an inclination to be appreciative of the opportunities afforded to them in their new land (Levitt, 2008; C. Suárez-Orozco & Suárez-Orozco, 2001). Indeed, Latino immigrant participants were more likely than nonimmigrant participants to trust the 2010 Census Bureau enumeration (M. H. Lopez & Taylor, 2010).

In conclusion

The large body of research on acculturation in psychology contradicts many of the assumptions in the popular culture about immigrant acculturation and assimilation. While some in the popular press suggest immigrants are not interested in acculturating to the American culture, evidence suggests that many immigrants learn English, participate in the culture, and adopt hyphenated American identities, and that doing so benefits them. In fact, “overacculturation” (Szapocznik et al., 1986) may be harmful for immigrant children who pick up not only the new language but also negative cultural norms that are out of sync with their families. Interventions designed to help immigrant youth maintain native language fluency while acquiring English prevent behavioral overacculturation (Szapocznik et al., 1986) and maintain a strong ethnic identity. They can be helpful in reducing family acculturative gaps and stress and improving immigrant mental health. Further, contrary to popular opinion, immigrants are engaged in civic activities and contribute to such activities even before becoming citizens.
1 The amount of research on acculturation in psychology is large and growing. A search for acculturat* in PsycINFO produced 19,679 entries (15,363 since the year 2000), of which 8,469 were empirical articles in peer-reviewed journals. However, there is little consistency in the methods or terminology used in this large volume of literature (Rudmin, 2003). In reviewing the literature, we have attempted to clarify the terminology and highlight the complexity of presenting an integrative summary of findings.
2 In addition to bilinear, the terms bidimensional (e.g., Ryder, Alden, & Paulhus, 2000) or orthogonal (Oetting & Beauvais, 1991) have been used to describe this process.
3 Acculturation to the heritage culture has been sometimes called enculturation (e.g., N. A. Gonzales, Knight, Birman, & Sirolli, 2004; Yoon, Langrehr, & Ong, 2010). However, in developmental psychology, enculturation describes a more general process of socialization that occurs within the child’s cultural context. Immigrant adults arrive having been fully “enculturated” into their culture of origin, and for them the term does capture both their cultural socialization experience and their attachment to their heritage culture. But for immigrant children, enculturation, or the process of socialization into the culture and society that surround them, occurs with respect to both cultures, as the family is embedded within and is reacting to the host cultural context. Therefore, to avoid confusion, the term acculturation refers to the process of affiliation with the heritage culture and is seen as part of the overall acculturation process that involves balancing affiliation to both.
4 Some authors have suggested that studies consistently show that acculturation is linked to negative mental health outcomes for Latino Americans (Escobar & Vega, 2001; S. Sue & Chu, 2003). However, this evidence comes largely from sociological studies that rely on place of birth and other demographic markers as proxies for acculturation (e.g., Burnham et al., 1987; Vega & Amaro, 1994). By comparing the mental health of different generations of immigrants, sociologists and epidemiologists assess the extent to which these groups differ and study the process of assimilation of immigrant groups over the course of generations. However, such proxy measures do not capture the psychological acculturation experience of individuals as explored in the psychological literature with bilinear measures and do not address the question of whether individual immigrants’ acculturation is related to mental health outcomes.

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