Acculturative Stress and Social Support among Korean and Indian Immigrant Adolescents in the United States

Article excerpt

This study examined acculturative stress and its relationship with social support among Korean and Indian immigrant adolescents. The data were collected from 165 Korean and Indian adolescents using the Acculturation Scale for Asian American Adolescents and Social Support Scale. Findings show that respondents experience low to moderate level of acculturative stress. Social support activities reduce the level of acculturative stress. Social support from parents is the most important predictive factor in determining the level of acculturative stress. These findings not only contribute to social work education and practice but also increase cultural sensitivity and awareness in working with these populations.

Keywords: Acculturative stress, Social support, Korean adolescents, Indian adolescents


Asian Indians and Koreans represent two of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the United States. According to current census data, approximately, 11.7 million Asians live in the U.S. of which 2.2 million are Asian Indians and 1.2 million are Koreans. As these groups become part of the U.S. society, there is a great need to understand how Korean and Indian immigrant families and their children adapt to the U.S. and the problems they encounter in this process. Although most immigrants from both Korea and India adapted to their new environment, several studies show that they also retained their traditional cultural traits, beliefs, values and mores (Dasgupta, 1998; Saran, 1985; Segal, 1991; Sodowsky & Carey, 1987; Hurh & Kim, 1990; Kim, 1997).

The process of acculturation or adapting to the new culture was once perceived as the immersion of immigrants into the new culture. However, current acculturation models focus on the selective and multidimensional nature of the immigrant experience and process. Some researchers argue that immigrants do not simply shed their old or native values for new ones, but rather select, shift and modify to adapt to the new environment (Buriel, 1993; Mendoza, 1989). Despite differing views, there is general consensus among researchers that acculturation is a learning process whereby at least some of the cultural patterns of the host country are adopted (Khairullah & Kairullah, 1999; Choi, 1997; Kang, 1996). Integration and assimilation are closely related constructs identified by researchers in the continuum of acculturation process. According to Berry (2003), integration is valuing one's own culture while at the same time interacting with the host culture. Assimilation, on the other hand, is giving up one's original culture in favor of the host culture.

In the process of learning to adapt to the new culture, individuals, families and groups experience substantial stress which researchers label as acculturative stress. The acculturative stress framework has been conceptualized for immigrants (Thomas, 1995) and refugee populations (Williams and Berry, 1991). It has also been empirically tested among immigrant populations such as Latinos (Chavez et al., 1997; Gil and Vega, 1996; Hovey and King, 1996), Haitians (Chrispin, 1998), and Asians (Choi, 1997; Kang, 1996; Noh and Avison, 1996; Das, 2002; Farver, Bhadha, and Narrang, 2002; Fuligni, 2001; Ghuman, 1997; Khairullah and Kairulla, 1999) in the United States and in Europe (Sam and Berry, 1995). Results of studies of acculturative stress have varied widely in the level of difficulties found in immigrant groups. Early views were that culture contact and change inevitably led to stress (Berry & Annis, 1974). However, the current view is that the level of stress depends on a number of factors such as acculturation attitudes, phase of acculturation, and cultural pluralism in the host society (Krishnan & Berry, 1992). Immigrants who feel marginalized and maintain a separation from both their ethnic culture and the host culture tend to be highly stressed. Two major sources of psychological stress experienced by children from immigrant families are pressure from peers to reject their own cultural identity and values in order to assimilate into the mainstream culture and pressure from parents and other adults to conform to ethnic/cultural norms and traditions (Chrispin, 1998). …


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