Current Models

Given the new articulations on the complexity of culture, researchers began to search for more valid representations of culture within the United States that more accurately reflected the multidimensionality of the immigration and culture change process. Keefe and Padilla (1987) introduced the idea of multiple dimensions in their conceptualization of the measurement of Chicano culture. They argued that knowledge of the Mexican culture, following traditions, socializing with individuals of the same ethnic background, and ethnic pride were key elements of culture to consider in psychological models. The multidimensional model was an important breakthrough in the conceptualization of culture; it shifted the focus of cultural theories and measurement beyond language.

Further, in recent advancements of cultural conceptualizations, Oetting and Beauvais (1990-91) introduced the orthogonal model of cultural orientation based on their work with Native American adolescents. Their model consisted of one axis reflecting adherence to the culture of origin and another perpendicular axis reflecting adherence to the new culture. This conceptualization has extended models of culture a step beyond that of Keefe and Padilla (1987), by no longer being predicated on a bipolar continuum of cultural change. Rather, Oetting and Beauvais (1990-91) argue that maintenance or acceptance of different cultures may occur completely separate from each other. In other words, these two potentially orthogonal change processes make it possible to assess bicultural individuals or conversely individuals marginalized from both cultures.

The multidimensional and orthogonal conceptualization appears to provide a representation of culture that may be more consistent with the experiences of Latino youth today, who are exposed to multiple cultures and who are expected to navigate cultural borders and live competently in multiple cultural worlds (Delgado-Gaitan, 1994). Supporting this model, Keefe and Padilla (1987) presented evidence that later generations often maintained their ethnic social orientation and their ethnic pride, despite their change in language preference and their lack of knowledge of cultural history. Stated differently, individuals could be bicultural, such that they adopt behaviors of the new culture while maintaining behaviors of the culture of origin. In relation to mental health, it has been reported that the healthiest outcome was for bicultural individuals; on the other hand, the least healthy outcomes seem to be associated with marginalization (Buriel, 1984; Cuellar, Roberts, Romero, & Leka, 1999; Negy & Woods, 1992; Richman, Gaviria, Flaherty, Birz, & Wintrob, 1987). Marginalization is when individuals do not identify with either culture (Cuellar et al., 1999).

The recent evidence suggests that being bicultural is the optimum mental health outcome possible, whereas marginalization may be the outcome that puts individuals most at-risk for deleterious mental health. In reviewing the extant literature on Latinos and mental health, it is recommended that culture be conceptualized as a multidimensional framework that be measured orthogonally on multiple dimensions. Additionally, it is important to remember that culture is complex and that other associated variables, such as socioeconomic status, may account for influences on mental health (Rogler et al., 1994). In summary, when assessing and treating the Latino community, researchers and clinicians would be wise to address culture and migration as complex processes, to take social context of socioeconomic status into consideration, and to use reliable multidimensional orthogonal measures of culture.

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