Modes Of Acculturation

According to Acculturation Theory (Redfield et al., 1936), people change in at least three basic ways: acceptance, adaptation, and reaction:

1. Acceptance is where the process of acculturation results in the replacement of the older cultural elements with new cultural customs. The end result of Acceptance is not just the assimilation of new behavior patterns but the inner values of the new culture.

2. Adaptation is when both original and foreign traits are combined so as to produce a "harmonious meaningful whole." Adaptation has several variants including blends, or amalgamations, alternating forms, and other means of integrating conflicting cultural elements (Lafromboise, Hardin, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993). Syncretism, a special variant of adaptation, is the reconciliation of two or more cultural systems or elements, with the modification of both (Burger, 1966).

3. Reaction includes all forms of contra-acculturative movements. These include but are not limited to actions to criticize, humiliate, stigmatize, eliminate, and modify contraculture elements.

Some of the terms used by anthropologists sound similar to Piaget's terms of accommodation and assimilation but beware, they are defined very differently by anthropologists. The newer literature on acculturation supports four main modes of acculturation: assimilation, integration, separation, and marginaliza-tion (Berry & Kim, 1988).

1. Assimilation is the mode of acculturation that results in the immigrant or minority-group member acquiring the behaviors and values of the host culture and either not acquiring, not relinquishing, not practicing, or not valuing their traditional culture.

2. Integration is a mode of acculturation in which the immigrant or minority member integrates both traditional culture with acquired characteristics of the host culture. This individual retains traditional culture and integrates it with the host/majority group mainstream culture in such a way that ethnic identity is maintained while endorsing mainstream values as well.

3. Separation is a mode of acculturation in which traditional culture is adhered to and not relinquished, traditional identity is maintained as well, along with a reluctance to accept, change, adapt, or even identify with the host culture in which the individual resides, works, or visits.

4. Marginalization is a mode of acculturation in which the immigrant or minority-group member does not maintain allegiance to traditional beliefs, values, behaviors, and so, while not adopting the values of the host culture. This person is truly marginalized as he or she does not have a good or strong sense of identity with either their traditional culture or with mainstream culture.

These four modes of acculturation are of particular interest to social and behavioral scientists, as each mode has specific mental health implications. There has been a growing interest in the relative health and mental health risks associated with each mode of acculturation. It is known that there are many variants of these cultural adaptations, including phasic, alternating, and syncretic modes of adaptation among others, including the newly identified constructs developed by Buss, Haselton, Shakelford, Bleske, and Wakefield (1998) of "exaptations" and "spandrels." Although used by Buss et al. as inherited characteristics, they have potential heuristic value, minimally, in understanding cultural referents of adaptation as well.

Acculturation changes at the individual level have characteristically included learning new words, idioms, expressions, ideas, customs, values, and behaviors. With the understanding that psychological stressors have individual specific effects, acculturative changes likewise have individual specific effects based on cultural meaning. In some individuals acculturation changes carry an increased risk for mental health-related problems. Stress, for example, is clearly linked as a predisposition for anxiety and depressive forms of illness. One of the most significant psychological studies in the last forty years is the Holmes and Rahe (1967) study showing the stress equivalents of change and assaults on self-integrity. Acculturation processes are replete with changes, and "acculturative stress" increases susceptibility to psychological problems just as does other forms of psychological stress.

Specific behavioral type of acculturative changes, such as eating different foods, learning a new language, enjoying culturally diverse stimuli (e.g., music) are integrated into the self with less psychic effort than participating in a culturally distinct activity or endorsing ideologies with very distinct values from those already held. These changes require greater risk of cognitive dissonance or conflict and are not so easily made.

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