Acculturation of Vietnamese Students Living in or Away from Vietnamese Communities

By Duan, Changming; Vu, Paul | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Acculturation of Vietnamese Students Living in or Away from Vietnamese Communities


Duan, Changming, Vu, Paul, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


A t-test comparison of the acculturation levels of Vietnamese students (members of Vietnamese student associations) living in or away from Vietnamese communities found higher overall acculturation for the former than for the latter group and no difference in the Value dimension of acculturation. Age and length of residency in the United States predicted acculturation.

Vietnamese Americans have been a strong growing ethnic group in the United States as the result of the influx of refugees from Vietnam during the 1970s and 1980s after the fall of South Vietnam. Many of these refugees, who were forced to leave their homeland and enter a new country when they were very young, have reached high school or college age in the 1990s. Needless to say, these refugees have been challenged with the task of adjusting to a new culture and surviving in the United States.

Although acculturation has been studied as an indicator of refugees' or immigrants' cultural adjustment, there exist theoretical differences in defining acculturation and in understanding the acculturation process. Some view acculturation as "a linear, bipolar" (Phinney, 1990, p. 501) process through which individuals give up their traditional cultural values and behaviors and weaken their ethnic identities as they take on the values and behaviors of the dominant social structure (Suinn, Richard-Figueroa, Lew, & Vigil, 1987). Others believe that ethnic individuals may become highly acculturated at a functional level without giving up their original cultural traditions and ethnic identities (see Phinney, 1990). Functional acculturation can be viewed as a process through which individuals adopt cultural behaviors that help them function in the dominant culture. This process does not necessarily require individuals to disclaim their cultural values or disown their ethnic identities. In fact, more and more theories of second cultural acquisition have asserted that the process of acculturation and ethnic identity change are independent of each other (see LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993).

Acculturation can be defined as a learning process in which individuals adopt attitudes, values, and behaviors from another culture (Berry, Trimble, & Olmedo, 1986) in areas such as language familiarity and usage, cultural heritage, ethnic pride, ethnicity, and interethnic distance (Padilla, 1980). Ethnic identity, on the other hand, is viewed as the knowledge of one's ethnic membership together with shared values and attitudes with other members of one's ethnic group (White & Burke, 1987). Although these two concepts are not always well differentiated in studies of cultural adaptation, studies of immigrants or refugees have focused more on acculturation than on ethnic identity. Researchers believe that it is important to examine influencing factors of acculturation, such as individual characteristics or environmental factors, to accurately understand immigrants' acculturation experience.

In recent years, research has shown that individual differences do exist in acculturation. The relationship between acculturation level and individuals' demographic characteristics such as age (e.g., Goldlust & Richmond, 1974; Liebkind, 1996), education (e.g., Weinstock, 1969), length of residency in the host country (e.g., Szapocznik, Scopetta, Kurtines, & Aranalde, 1978), and immediate home, school, or work environment (Sodowsky & Lai, 1997) has been examined. For example, in examining cultural factors that affect the psychological functioning of Southeast Asian refugee adolescents, Lee (1988) observed that their adjustment to the host country depended on how long they had been in the United States, their age at the time of immigration, the compatibility of their country of origin to the host community, their parents' acculturation levels, and their school environment. Jiobu (1988) confirmed the role of length of residency in the host country in acculturation and found that the longer immigrants had lived in the United States the more acculturated they became. …

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