NAME OF THE STUDENT
Acculturation is an experience or phenomenon that occurs when groups of individuals with different cultural backgrounds engage in on going/ continuous physical contact, which in turn causes one or more of the different cultures to experience adaptation/ a change in their original cultural practices (Berry, 1997); (Berry, 2008). Acculturation is a phenomenon that occurs at a macro level/ group level and a micro level/ individual level, and this means that an individual of a certain ethnic minority group can experience acculturation differently than their ethnic minority group (Berry, 1997). This literature view will initiate by discussing four important concepts associated with the acculturation theory, then this review will present pan-cultural research evidence in order to illustrate the four acculturation concepts, with that, explanations identifying how the acculturation theory helps us comprehend pan- cultural ethnic differences and similarities will be highlighted, and next the potential weaknesses of the acculturation theory will be presented. In close this literature review will summarize how the acculturation theory impacts psychology, namely affect, behaviour, and cognition.
No study is conducted in a vacuum and it must be connected with the past and future. A literature review offers such contextual information, which not only describes what has already been done in the field and what problems remain to be unsolved, but also explains to what scale one’s study is distinguishable from the previous ones, what kind of impact can be made to the existing knowledge, how the design of one’s design is based on if there is any (Wen,2001).Acculturation is an phenomenon that occurs when groups of individuals with diverse cultural backgrounds engage in on going or continuous physical contact, which in turn causes one or more of the different cultures to experience adaptation or a change in their original cultural practices (Berry, 1997); (Berry, 2008). Acculturation may pertain to a range of different phenomena, going from simple likes and dislikes (e.g., getting used to spicy food or raw fish), changes in self-definition (e.g., considering oneself a member of the new majority culture) and ‘deep’ psychological processes such as emotion and personality.
The four major concepts/ strategies of acculturation are assimilation, separation,
integration, and marginalization (Berry, 1997); (Jasinskaja-Lanti & Liebkind, 2009).
Assimilation is proficient when persons of a marginal group decide that they no longer
want to safe guard their original cultural value system, as they only want to absorb the
mainstream/ dominate cultural value system (Berry, 1997); (Haasen, Demiralay & Reimer,
2008); (Mussap, 2009); (Barrette, Bourhis, Personnaz, & Personnaz, 2004). Separation is
experienced when individuals of a minority group decide that they do not want to endanger
their original cultural value system, and as a result they prevent themselves from absorbing
mainstream cultural values (Berry, 1997); (Haasen et al., 2008); (Mussap, 2009) (Barrette et al.,
2004). Integration is experienced when individuals of a marginal group decide that they want to
hold onto their inherent cultural values, as well as the cultural values held by mainstream society
(Berry, 1997); (Haasen et al., 2008); (Mussap, 2009). Marginalization is proficient when
individuals of an ethnic lesser group decide that they do not want to maintain their original
cultural values, and they do not want to adopt the cultural value system held by mainstream
society (Berry, 1997); (Haasen et al., 2008); (Mussap, 2009).
In order to determine what acculturation strategy is more likely to be adopted and experienced, two questions that are fundamental to Berry’s acculturation theory need to be answered. The first questions identifies weather or not an ethnic minority actually desires/ feels its important to maintain their native cultural value system (Berry, 1997); (Jasinskaja-Lanti ; Liebkind, 2009). The second question identifies weather or not an ethnic minority actually desires/ feels its important to have contact and social relations with mainstream members (Berry, 1997); (Jasinskaja-Lanti ; Liebkind,2009). Minority individuals answering “yes” to both questions are on their way to experiencing integration, those answering “no” to both questions are on their way to experiencing marginalization, those answering “yes” to question one and “no” to question two are more likely to experience separation, and those answering “no” to question one and “yes” to question two are more likely to experience assimilation (Berry, 1997).
The assimilation experience is more common among minority groups living in a nation
that is categorized as a melting pot, such as the United States (Berry, 2008), as these types of
nations strongly influence minorities to drop their native cultural values and adopt the
mainstream cultural value system (Bhattacharya ; Groznik, 2008). The separation experience is
more common among ethnic minorities residing in segregationist type nations (Berry, 2008),
which refer to nations that implement social policy that excludes ethnic minority groups (Berry.
1997); (Barrette et al., 2004). The integration experience is more common among minority
groups residing in multicultural nations such as Canada (Berry, 2008), as these types of nations
accept and embrace cultural diversity with open arms, due to social values that support ethnic
diversity (Berry, 1997); (Barrette et al., 2004). The marginalization experience is more common
among ethnic minority groups living in exclusionist nations, referring to nations that prevent
ethnic minorities from experiencing full equality and full rights within mainstream society
(Berry, 2008); (Barrette et al., 2004).
Acevedo (2000) identifies how the acculturation theory can be used to explain pancultural differences and similarities among low income Mexican- American women (ethnic
minority), and low income European- American women (dominate). Research on 331 Mexican-
American women and 263 European – American women, found that Mexican Americans women
who under went acculturation as a result of assimilation, had parenting styles that took into
account children developement issues, and this was similar to the parenting styles of the
dominate cultural group (European- Americans) (Acevedo, 2000). In this study the degree of
acculturation was measured based on the ability to speak english, and as result research findings
found that english speaking Mexican- American women had high levels of acculturation than
non- english speaking Mexican- American women (Acevedo, 2000). In addittion, non- english
speaking Mexican- American women had authoritarian parenting styles that reflected their
original cultural practices, and this style of parenting was different from the dominate parenting
style practiced by European- American women (Acevedo, 2000). Therefore the acculturation
theory can be used to explain cross- cultural differences and similarities in parenting styles
among European- American and Mexican- American women, which in turn can be used to
highlight the behaviour component of the ABC’s of psychology. The above findings from the
acculturation theory have important immigration policy implications connected to language
(english), acculturation level, and parenting style. For example, in order to increase level of
acculturation among immigrants as a means to prevent distress and authoritarian parenting styles,
policy makers must provide vigorous and high quality english language learning programs
geared towards immigrations. In terms of the cross cultural research perspective, it is evident that
other countries would have to provide language learning programs that would reflect their own
Mussap’s mental health research on 101 Muslim- Australian women between the ages of
18 and 44 years, found that integration and assimilation acculturative strategies were linked to
lower levels of self esteem psychological dissatisfaction linked to body image (2009). Mussap
asserts that dominant Australian body image values are psychologically harmful due to the
overemphasized thinness equals beauty value (2009). Research indicated that Muslim- Australian women who had undergone acculturation either through assimilation or integration, experienced lower levels of self- esteem linked to body image dissatisfaction. However, Muslim- Australian women who experienced acculturation through the marginalization or separation acculturative strategy, did not experienced low levels of self- esteems linked to body image dissatisfaction (Mussap, 2009). In terms of ethnic differences and similarities, the acculturation theory points out that dominant ethnic group individuals (Native Australian women) who had internalized the thinness equals beauty value, also experienced low levels of self- esteem linked to body image dissatisfaction (Mussap, 2009). Moreover, native Australian women who did not internalize dominant body image values and ideals did not experience low levels of self esteem linked to body image dissatisfaction (Mussap, 2009). It is evident from the above research findings, that the acculturation theory can be used to explain pan cultural differences and similarities linked to levels of self esteem, which can be associated with the cognitive and affective component of the ABC’s. For instance self- esteem is ones overall/ global evaluation of the self, and the evaluative aspect (cognition) can cause either positive or negative emotions/ feelings (affect). With that, the acculturation theory has given researchers the ability to predict levels of self esteem held by ethnic minority women who are between the ages of 18 and 44 years, and who are living in a nation where the thinness equals beauty value dominates. In addittion, the acculturation theory can benefit immigration policy by promoting programs that expose immigrant women to dominate body image ideals and values, in order to provide them with coping mechanism that will prevent low levels of self esteem linked to body image dissatisfaction.
Acculturation research by Haasen, Demiralay, and Reimer (2008), found a significant
correlation between the type of acculturation strategy used and acculturative stress. Research
done on 202 Russian and 100 Iranian migrants in mainstream Germany, found that assimilation
and segregation strategies of acculturation were correlated with long term acculturative stress
that influenced feelings of depression (Haasen, Demiralay & Reimer, 2008). Prior to this study
the researchers hypothesized that Iranian migrants would experience more acculturative stress
(E.g. Depression) than migrant Russians, as Russians were physical similar to Germans in terms
of skin colour (Haasen et. al., 2008). However, research findings nulled the above hypothesis, as
the acculturative stress experienced through assimilation was similar for both Russian and
Iranian migrants of Germany (Haasen et. al., 2008). Haasen, Demiralay, and Reimer (2008)
explained these results by stating that the positive perceptions Iranian migrants had when they
enter into Germany (E.g. Germans are justice people), influenced the level of acculturative stress
that was found. Therefore the above results and explanation provide an understanding pertaining
to pan cultural similarities among distinct ethnic groups, namely Iranian and Russian migrants.
The acculturation research above has essential implications for border security guards, customs
and immigration personnel, and those who deal with immigrants or migrants. For instance, the
above finding illustrates that positive perceptions will counter concerns/ acculturative stress
linked to physical appearance differences, and so it is important that officials interact with
immigrants and migrants in a manner that fosters positive perceptions about a nation.
Gaps in acculturation
Despite the many social, psychological, and legal benefits of acculturation research
mentioned above, there are some areas of research that the acculturation theory fails to analyze.
Berry’s acculturation model/ theory in its original form doesn’t strategically analyze the
acculturation processes experienced by mixed ethnic group individuals, referring to individuals
who have biological parents of different cultural heritages (Ward, 2006). Moreover, the
acculturation theory fails to systematically explain the acculturation process experienced by
orphans, as orphans are constantly exposed to an institutional cultural atmosphere, despite on
going physical contact with children of different cultural backgrounds. Secondly, the
acculturation theory is unable to explain the process in which mainstream ethnic majority
individuals experience assimilation, marginalization, separation, or integration when it comes to
specific cultural practices/ values such as body image values (Barrette et al., 2004). In relation to
this point it is evident that some individuals of the dominant cultural group may not want to
adhere to specific cultural practices or ideals associated with their culture, and this in turn may
lead to a quasi form of marginalization which the acculturation theory is not prepared to explain.
Thirdly, the acculturation theory doesn’t provide an explanation for the developement/ formation
of new cultures (Berry, 1997), that may result from the on going physical contact between
individuals of different cultural groups.
Relevance of acculturation
In close, the acculturation theory is a significant culture and psychology phenomenon that
should continue to be discussed within pan- cultural discourse. The acculturation theory has
exposed researchers to psychological concepts such as acculturative strategies, acculturative
stress, self esteem, body image, depression, and cognitive perceptions that have provided
researchers with the tools to make valid and reliable predictions regarding an individuals
affectivity, behaviour, and cognition.
Future acculturation research should focus on modifying and expanding Berry’s original acculturation theory, in order for the acculturation theory to be successfully applied to different research contexts as discussed in the previous paragraph. The acculturation theory/ phenomenon formulated by John Berry has provided researchers with a pan- cultural research tool for carrying out reliable and valid cross- cultural research.