10 November 2005


Re-adjustment is an issue with immigrants of all types – not just those who cross borders illegally.

While some immigrants adjust willingly and easily to a new culture, other immigrants have strong attachments to their culture of origin and find such a transition difficult. A few immigrants even develop the ability to negotiate two cultures comfortably, without sacrificing their identification with either culture.

Ethnic identity comes into play and involves attitudes, values, behaviours, and evolving changes in the social context. The older the individual immigrant, the more strongly embedded are these attitudes, values and behaviours. During a geographic re-location, the process of a new identity formation is challenged. Simultaneously trying to learn a new language, dealing with a new culture, relating to peers, finding employment… creates stress and pushes back the re-adjustment process.

Faced with such challenges, what is an immigrant to do?

According to Christine J. Yeh, Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, studies have identified four coping strategies that immigrants can use in their acculturation process:
1. Assimilation – i.e. interaction with individuals from the host culture and devaluation of one’s own culture,
2. Integration – i.e. maintenance of one’s culture as well as interaction with individuals from the host culture,
3. Marginalisation – i.e. rejection of one’s culture of origin as well as avoidance of individuals from the host culture, and
4. Separation – i.e. maintenance of one’s culture of origin and minimal interaction with other groups, especially individuals from the host culture.

Easier said than done! This is pure theory and difficult to implement – or even rehearse – in one’s own life. Rarely does the acculturation process proceed without problems. It is usually stressful, and difficulties in adaptation crop up everywhere. To start with, one of the major barriers for immigrants is learning a new language.

There’s more. In many cases, differential acculturation takes place, creating generation gaps within immigrant families and groups in terms of values, expectations, attitudes and behaviours. These heighten family/group conflicts and delay the overall re-adjustment process.


stine said...

this is Christine Yeh. Actually, the four types of strategies for acculturation are by John Berry. I do discuss coping in my work on immigrants and ethnically and racially diverse individuals but I talk more about cultural approaches to coping that often involve spirituality, using social support networks, family, peers, elders, etc, and methods of indigenous healing. these theories are on the reported practices of numerous ethnic minority individuals. I also believe that acculturation is a fluid process of negotiation between two or more cultures.

runawaysun said...

@ Stine

Hello Christine. Thank you for visiting my blog and writing your comment. I am delighted to hear from you and have posted something on it on my other blog at http://unsettledviews.blogspot.com/