Academic journal article Adolescence

Acculturative Stress among Amerasian Refugees: Gender and Racial Differences

Academic journal article Adolescence

Acculturative Stress among Amerasian Refugees: Gender and Racial Differences

Article excerpt

Definition of Terms

Acculturative Stress: Stress due to the acculturation process between two cultures. Psychocultural stress due to cultural differences found between a host culture and an incoming culture marked by reduction in the physical and mental health status of individuals or groups undergoing acculturation.

Acculturation: Cultural change which results from the continued firsthand contact between two distinct cultures. It is marked by physical and psychological changes due to the adaptation required in diet, climate, housing, interactional styles, norms, and values to a new culture.

Amerasians: Individuals or groups of persons born of American servicemen and Vietnamese or Cambodian women during the Vietnam War.

Amerasian Homecoming Act: A law passed by Congress in 1987 permitting all Amerasians and their immediate families, including wives, half-siblings, and mothers, whether married or single, to immigrate to the United States as refugees but with full citizenship rights and obligations.

Refugee: A person fleeing or leaving his or her country of birth, seeking haven in another country.


Dependent Variable: Acculturative Stress

Independent Variables: Gender, race, employment, spoken English, and length of stay in the United States.

This study of Amerasian refugees was designed to assess the psychocultural well-being of this subgroup of refugees by investigating the extent to which they experience acculturative stress as they attempt to adjust to a new culture. Specific focus was placed on the effect of employment, effective spoken English, length of stay in America, gender and race, and their impact on the level of acculturative stress.

Theories of Acculturative Stress

Berry (1987) points to acculturative stress as the phenomenon individuals or groups experience in their adjustment to a new culture. It is manifested as a reduction in the psychological, somatic, and social balance of individuals or groups. The variation in and intensity of this stress rests heavily on the similarities or dissimilarities between the host culture and that of the new entrants, including personal characteristics, amount of exposure, level of education and skills, sex, age, language, race, and psychological and spiritual strengths, as well as the host culture's political and social attitudes, especially toward the newcomers. The more radical and different the host culture is in comparison to the newcomers native cultures, the more acculturative stress will be experienced (Cox, 1987).

Amerasians in Vietnam

Acculturative stress among Amerasians has to be considered on the basis of the negative experiences they faced in their country of birth and their current psychosocial adjustment to challenges in their new country. Another source of stress is their mixed racial background ranging across African, European, Asian, and Latino. In the Vietnamese culture an individual's sense of seif and identity is formed through the generational patriarchy (Hitchcock, 1988). Abandoned by their American fathers and considered the children of prostitutes, Amerasian children of United States servicemen and Vietnamese women were known as "doi-doi," meaning, "the children of the dust." Perceived as half-breeds and social outcasts in Vietnam, they constituted a permanent reminder of the enemy of Vietnam who killed millions of Vietnamese people (United States Catholic Charities; USCC, 1985).

After the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam in 1975, fear and anxiety were the norm for the children and their families. Economic hardship and deprivation, terror and outright ostracism, malnutrition, and other forms of physical, social, and psychological abuse became their lifestyle. A study conducted by the USCC in 1985 noted that the property of a significant number of Amerasian families was confiscated. An overwhelming number were moved to areas where conditions were extremely difficult. …

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