Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

Acculturation of Values and Behavior: A Study of Vietnamese Immigrants

Academic journal article Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development

Acculturation of Values and Behavior: A Study of Vietnamese Immigrants

Article excerpt

The authors investigated acculturation as manifested in external behavior and within a culturally independent framework of human values.

An important issue regarding the culture of immigrant communities is that they are a part of neither the broader host community nor the country of origin. Substantial acculturation--the process of change in knowledge, attitudes, cultural beliefs, values, and practices that occurs when the individual is exposed to a new cultural environment (Burnam, Tellez, Hough, & Escobar, 1987; Olmedo, 1979; Ramirez, 1980)--may take place. Acculturation does not necessarily occur to the same extent or at the same rate for all immigrant communities nor for all members of an immigrant group. This concept is of considerable theoretical and practical importance in any country with substantial immigrant populations because it is misleading to draw conclusions about the relationship between ethnicity and any outcome being studied without also acknowledging the possibility of differential acculturation.

Acculturation takes place along two different but related dimensions: behavioral and psychological (Berry, 1992; Olmedo, 1979; Searle & Ward, 1990). The first dimension, behavioral acculturation, is related to cultural learning and the adoption of the most observable, external aspects of the dominant culture including language, social skills, and the ability to "fit in" or negotiate the new sociocultural reality (Berry, 1992; Ramirez, 1980; Searle & Ward, 1990; Szapocznik, Scopetta, Kurtines, & Aranalde, 1978; Taft, 1987; Ward & Kennedy, 1993).

The second dimension, psychological acculturation, is a more complex process that reflects the degree of agreement with the defined norms, basic values, ideologies, beliefs, attitudes, and preferences of most of the group (Berry, 1992; Cuellar, Harris, & Jasso, 1980; Miranda & Castro, 1980; Searle & Ward, 1990; Szapocznik, Scopetta, Aranalde, & Kurtines, 1978).

The level of acculturation along these dimensions and the correlation between them may fluctuate according to individual and group need, capacity, or opportunity for integration into the host culture (Taft, 1985; Ward & Kennedy, 1993). It is generally accepted that new knowledge and roles can be acquired quickly, and an individual can comply with, learn, or imitate another's actions without affecting his or her attitudes, beliefs, or values (Chance, 1965; Richardson, 1961). Therefore, it is possible to be highly acculturated in one aspect of life, (e.g., knowledge of the language of the host society) and not in other aspects (e.g., health-related beliefs and practices; Barrett, Joe, & Simpson, 1991; Neff & Hoppe, 1993; Rogler, 1994; Taft, 1985). Therefore, measuring the adoption of the most observable, external aspects of the host culture (behavioral acculturation) does not necessarily reflect the extent to which a person has adopted host society norms and values, the basic personality structure, or cultural identity (Ramirez, 1980; Weinstock, 1964). Therefore, it seems appropriate to identify the individual on both dimensions of acculturation; it is, after all, the individual who processes information, understands the world, interprets and evaluates meanings according to cultural values and norms, and finally, interacts with the health system or providers of social and psychological services (Berry, Trimble, & Olmedo, 1986).

The most common approach to studying acculturation has been to use an acculturation index (Cuellar et al., 1980; Deyo, Diehl, Hazuda, & Stern, 1985; Marin, Sabogal, Marin, Otero-Sabogal, & Perez-Stable, 1987; Olmedo, Martinez, & Martinez, 1978; Olmeda & Padilla, 1978; Triandis, Kashima, Shimada, & Villareal, 1986). The large number of scales produced during the past two decades suggests that there is still no agreement regarding which instrument best assesses the extent of an individual's acculturation. …

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