Academic journal article Family Relations

Acculturation and Latino Family Processes: How Cultural Involvement, Biculturalism, and Acculturation Gaps Influence Family Dynamics*

Academic journal article Family Relations

Acculturation and Latino Family Processes: How Cultural Involvement, Biculturalism, and Acculturation Gaps Influence Family Dynamics*

Article excerpt


This study investigated how adolescent and parent acculturation (culture-of-origin and U.S. cultural involvement, biculturalism, acculturation conflicts, and parent-adolescent acculturation gaps) influenced family dynamics (family cohesion, adaptability, familism, and parent-adolescent conflict) in a sample of 402 Latino families from North Carolina and Arizona. Multiple regression and hierarchical linear models suggested that culture-of-origin involvement and biculturalism were cultural assets related to positive outcomes, whereas acculturation conflict was inversely related to positive family dynamics and positively related to parent-adolescent conflict. Parent-adolescent acculturation gaps were inversely associated with family cohesion, adaptability, and familism but were unrelated to parent-adolescent conflict. Limitations and implications for practice are discussed.

Key Words: acculturation, Latinos, parent-child conflict, parent-child relationships.

Acculturation was first defined as a sociological process in which cultural change resulted from contact between two autonomous and independent cultural groups (Redfield, Linton, & Herskovits, 1936). Berry (1980) characterized the course of the acculturation process as flowing from contact between dominant and nondominant groups to conflict or crises between those groups that eventually resulted in adaptations by one or both of the groups. Usually, the nondominant group has been strongly influenced to take on the norms, values, and behaviors espoused by the dominant group (Berry, 1998).

Many other constructs in cultural research, such as assimilation, enculturation, acculturation stress, and biculturalism, have been invoked under the umbrella of acculturation research. Acculturation is the overall process of cultural involvement and has two important subcomponents-(a) the extent to which the acculturating individual or group retains culture-of-origin involvement and (b) the extent to which host culture involvement is established (Berry, 1980; Smokowski & Bacallao, 2006). Assimilation is associated with high levels of host culture involvement. Ethnic identity or enculturation is associated with high levels of culture-of-origin involvement. A moderate to high level of involvement in both cultures marks integration or biculturalism (Berry, 1998). Acculturation conflicts are experienced when messages from the culture of origin and host cultures became difficult to reconcile. Finally, acculturation gaps are the result of differences between adolescent and parent levels of culture-of-origin and host culture involvement.

Within the overarching process of acculturation, several theoretical frameworks have been developed to describe what happens to individuals and families during the acculturation process (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993; Rogler, Cortes, & Malgady, 1991). The range of theoretical approaches can be categorized into two divergent, competing frameworks: assimilation theory and alternation theory. Although these two acculturation theories both center on two criteria-whether the acculturating individual or group retains cultural identity and whether a positive relationship to the dominant society is established (Berry, 1998)-they hold conflicting assumptions regarding how the acculturation process should end. Assimilation theorists posit that individuals lose cultural identity as they identify with the dominant cultural group, whereas alternation theorists hold that individuals retain cultural identity (or enculturation) while establishing a positive relationship with the dominant culture (Gonzales, Knight, Morgan-Lopez, Saenz, & Sirolli, 2002). Alternation theorists espouse a bidirectional or multidimensional view of cultural change, which emphasizes biculturalism.

The purpose of the current study was to investigate how acculturation factors (e.g., adolescent and parent culture-of-origin and host culture involvement, acculturation conflicts, biculturalism, and parent-adolescent acculturation gaps) related to family dynamics (e. …

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