- Seth J. Schwartz, Ph.D.

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AN EXPANDED VIEW OF ACCULTURATION:
IMPLICATIONS FOR RISK TAKING BEHAVIORS AMONG
COLLEGE-ATTENDING IMMIGRANT EMERGING ADULTS
Seth J. Schwartz, Ph.D.
University of Miami
October 21, 2010
IMMIGRATION AND ACCULTURATION
Immigration is at an all-time high, both in the United States and
in many other Western countries (van de Vijver & Phalet, 2004;
Schwartz, Montgomery, & Briones, 2006).
Since 1965, most immigration to the United States has come
from heavily collectivist countries in Latin America, Asia, and the
Caribbean (Portes & Rumbaut, 2006).
There is also a steady flow of White immigrants, mostly from
Eastern Europe (Birman & Taylor-Ritzler, 2007; Hinkel, 2000).
The U.S. is consistently rated as the most individualistic country
in the world (Hofstede, 2001) – suggesting that the gap between
immigrants’ heritage cultures and U.S. culture may be large.
IMMIGRATION AND ACCULTURATION
In most cases, immigration is followed by acculturation –
changes in cultural practices, values, and identifications that
accompany contact with people from the receiving cultural
context.
Early views of acculturation were unidimensional – immigrants
were assumed to discard their cultures of origin as they
acculturated to the receiving society (e.g., Gordon, 1964):
HERITAGE
CULTURE
RECEIVING
CULTURE
IMMIGRATION AND ACCULTURATION
In more recent years, cultural psychologists have adopted a
bidimensional model of acculturation – where heritage and
receiving cultural orientations are considered as separate
dimensions.
HERITAGE
RECEIVING
MULTIDIMENSIONALITY OF ACCULTURATION
Acculturation is multidimensional in terms of heritage and
receiving cultural orientations – but it is also multidimensional in
terms of the domains in which it operates:
1. Cultural practices refer to behaviors such as language use,
media preferences, social relationships, and celebrations;
2. Cultural values refer to beliefs and ideals associated with
specific cultural contexts (e.g., machismo in Hispanics, modesty
in Southeast Asians) – as well as more general cultural values
such as individualism and collectivism; and
3. Cultural identifications refer to the extent to which one feels
attached to one’s ethnic and national groups.
MULTIDIMENSIONALITY OF ACCULTURATION
So acculturation is multidimensional in two separate ways:
Heritage language
Heritage-culture
foods
HERITAGE
PRACTICES
Collectivism
Interdependence
Familism
VALUES
Country of origin
IDENTIFICATIONS
Receiving-society language
Receiving-culture foods
Individualism
Independence
RECEIVING
Receiving country
Schwartz, S. J., Unger, J. B., Zamboanga, B. L., & Szapocznik, J. (2010). Rethinking the
concept of acculturation: Implications for theory and research. American Psychologist, 65, 237251.
MULTIDIMENSIONALITY OF ACCULTURATION
However, the literatures on behavioral acculturation, cultural
values, and cultural identifications have been largely separate
from one another (Schwartz, Unger, Zamboanga, & Szapocznik,
2010).
The purpose of the study I’m presenting here was to examine all
of these dimensions of acculturation as predictive of health risk
behaviors in a sample of young-adult college students from
immigrant families.
THE IMMIGRANT PARADOX
One might think that moving from a resource-poor country to a
wealthy nation like the United States would be associated with a
drastic improvement in health outcomes.
However, research has shown just the opposite!!
The longer that immigrants live in the United States (or the more
acculturated they are to American culture), the more likely they
are to:
•Use illicit drugs (Allen, Elliot, Fuligni, Morales, Hambarsoomian,
& Schuster, 2008);
•Engage in unsafe sexual practices (Ford & Norris, 1993);
•Consume fast food and be physically inactive (Unger et al.,
2004).
THE IMMIGRANT PARADOX
A similar conclusion has been drawn between first-generation
(born outside the US) and second-generation (born in the US
but raised by immigrant parents) individuals (Prado et al., 2009).
The message from these studies seems to be that, among
immigrants and their immediate descendants, becoming
Americanized is hazardous to your health!!
?
THE IMMIGRANT PARADOX
However, virtually all of these studies have relied on
unidimensional models of acculturation, where heritage and
receiving cultural orientations were cast as polar opposites.
As a result, we don’t really know whether the risk is based on
acquiring American orientations, or losing heritage orientations.
A more precise understanding of where the risks of
“acculturation” come from would help us to know how to advise
researchers, educators, policy makers, and the public.
THE IMMIGRANT PARADOX
The acculturation experience can be very different depending
on one’s ethnicity (Schwartz et al., 2010; Steiner, 2009) –
suggesting that we should examine effects of acculturation
separately for each ethnic group (Sue & Chu, 2003).
METHOD
Sample
•3,251 emerging-adult students (72% women) from 30 colleges
and universities around the United States.
•Mean age 20.2; SD 3.31 (97% between 18 and 29)
•All participants reported that both of their parents were born
outside the United States.
METHOD
Ethnicity and Immigrant Generation
1st Generation
2nd Generation
Total
White
184 (65%)
99 (35%)
283
Black
146 (38%)
236 (62%)
382
Hispanic
457 (38%)
740 (62%)
1,197
East Asian
358 (38%)
589 (62%)
947
South Asian
123 (42%)
172 (58%)
295
Middle Eastern
32 (33%)
64 (67%)
96
South African
11 (44%)
14 (56%)
25
Ethnic Group
METHOD
Most Common Countries of Origin
Whites – the former Soviet Union, the former Yugoslavia,
Poland, and Great Britain;
Blacks – Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, and various African countries;
Hispanics – Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Nicaragua, and Peru;
East Asians – China, Korea, Vietnam, and the Philippines;
South Asians – India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh;
Middle Eastern – Lebanon, Palestine, and Iran.
METHOD
Measures – Cultural Practices
Stephenson Multigroup Acculturation Scale – 32 items (15 for
American cultural practices, 17 for heritage cultural practices)
•Items indexing language use, food preferences, friends, media,
et cetera.
•Heritage cultural practices – α = .89
•American cultural practices – α = .83
METHOD
Measures – Cultural Values
Three kinds of cultural values were measured:
•Horizontal individualism and collectivism – how one
conceptualizes others at the same social level (e.g., peers, coworkers);
•Vertical individualism and collectivism – how one
conceptualizes authority figures and elders (e.g., parents,
bosses, teachers);
METHOD
Measures – Cultural Values
Three kinds of cultural values were measured:
•Independence and interdependence – how one relates to
others in general.
METHOD
Measures – Cultural Values
Individualism and collectivism were assessed using 4-item
scales developed by Triandis and Gelfand (1995):
Alphas ranged from .74 to .78.
METHOD
Measures – Cultural Values
Independence and interdependence were assessed using the
Self-Construal Scale (Singelis, 1994).
Independence – 12 items, α = .74;
Interdependence – 12 items, α = .77.
METHOD
Measures – Cultural Identifications
Ethnic identity was measured using the Multi-Group Ethnic
Identity Measure (MEIM; Phinney, 1992).
The MEIM consists of 12 items (α = .90) measuring the extent to
which one has thought about, and is attached to, one’s ethnic
group.
We adapted the MEIM to measure American identity by
changing “my ethnic group” to “the United States” for each item
(α = .90) .
METHOD
Measures – Health Risk Behaviors
We assessed hazardous alcohol use, along with a number of
other risky behaviors.
Hazardous alcohol use was assessed using the Alcohol Use
Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT; Saunders et al., 1993)
In the present sample, Cronbach’s α was .79.
METHOD
Measures – Health Risk Behaviors
We asked about other health risk behaviors in the 30 days prior
to assessment:
Drug Use
Marijuana, hard drugs, inhalants, injecting drugs, prescription
drug misuse
Sexual Risk Taking
Oral sex, anal sex, unprotected sexual activity, sex while
drunk/high, casual sex (sex with a stranger).
METHOD
Measures – Health Risk Behaviors
We asked about other health risk behaviors in the 30 days prior
to assessment:
Risky Driving
Driving while intoxicated, and riding with a driver who was
intoxicated.
METHOD
Procedures
•Online data collection between September 2007 and October
2009
•30 sites around the United States
•Students from psychology, sociology, education, and family
studies courses directed to study website
•85% of participants who logged in completed all six survey
pages
RESULTS
Correlations among Cultural Variables
We first computed a table of correlations among the cultural
variables:
Variable
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
.17
.18
.14
.44
-.17
.12
-.01
.21
-.03
------
.41
.40
.29
.21
.21
.00
.37
.27
---------
.46
.38
.18
.20
.15
.29
.25
---------
.27
.25
.07
.21
.21
.29
---------
.12
.24
.08
.31
.25
---------
.22
.12
.32
.54
---------
.23
.48
.15
---------
.21
.16
---------
.28
Heritage Orientation
1. Heritage Practices
2. Horizontal
Collectivism
3. Vertical
Collectivism
4. Interdependence
5. Ethnic Identity
American
Orientation
6. American
Practices
7. Horizontal
Individualism
8. Vertical
Individualism
9. Independence
10. American
Identity
---------
RESULTS
Correlations among Cultural Variables
It is of note that the corresponding heritage and American
cultural variables were generally modestly correlated with one
another:
•Heritage practices with American practices, r = -.17;
•Horizontal individualism with horizontal collectivism, r = .21;
•Vertical individualism with vertical collectivism, r = .15;
•Independence with interdependence, r = .21;
•Ethnic identity with American identity, r = .25.
RESULTS
Risk Behaviors by Heritage and American Cultural Orientations
We then proceeded to examine the associations of heritage and
American orientations with health risk behaviors.
These models took the following form:
Heritage Practices
Heritage Values
Heritage Identifications
American Practices
American Values
American Identifications
Health Risk
Behaviors
RESULTS
Creating Composite Variables for Cultural Values
Because we had three indicators for American values, and three
for heritage values, we used exploratory factor analysis to
extract composite indicators for each of these constructs.
Single factors emerged from both the heritage and American
values indicators:
American Values: eigenvalue 1.67, 55.62% of variability
explained, factor loadings ranged from .57 to .82;
Heritage Values: eigenvalue 1.93, 64.48% of variability
explained; factor loadings ranged from .78 to .82.
RESULTS
Creating Subscales for Health Risk Behaviors
We then created subscales for Illicit Drug Use, Sexual Risk
Taking, and Impaired Driving by summing the scores for the
individual behaviors within each category.
Spearman-Brown reliability coefficients for these subscales
were:
Illicit drug use, .84;
Sexual risk taking, .73; and
Impaired driving, .67.
RESULTS
Poisson Regression: Health Risk Behaviors by Heritage and
American Cultural Orientations
The risk behavior subscales followed a Poisson distribution,
where the mode is zero and frequencies decrease with
increasing values:
RESULTS
In Poisson regression, the unstandardized regression coefficient
can be converted into an incidence rate ratio (IRR) by taking the
exponential (inverse natural logarithm).
When we estimated the regression model on the sample as a
whole, no significant findings emerged.
Following Sue and Chu (2003), we divided the sample by ethnic
group and re-estimated the model separately on each group.
Following guidelines suggested by Shieh (2001), we included
only those groups with n ≥ 200 – Whites, Blacks, Hispanics,
East Asians, and South Asians.
RESULTS
Whites
For Whites from immigrant families, the following results
emerged:
Predictor
Health Risk Subscale
β/IRR (95% CI)
Heritage Practices
Impaired Driving
0.48*** (0.35 to 0.65)
Heritage Values
Impaired Driving
0.56** (0.37 to 0.85)
RESULTS
Blacks
For Blacks from immigrant families, the following results
emerged:
Predictor
Health Risk Subscale
β/IRR (95% CI)
Heritage Identity
Hazardous Alcohol Use
American Identity
Illicit Drug Use
0.79* (0.63 to 0.99)
Heritage Practices
Impaired Driving
0.84* (0.72 to 0.98)
-.11*
RESULTS
Hispanics
For Hispanics from immigrant families, the following results
emerged:
Predictor
Health Risk Subscale
β/IRR (95% CI)
Heritage Practices
Illicit Drug Use
0.87*** (0.82 to 0.93)
Heritage Values
Illicit Drug Use
0.88*** (0.82 to 0.94)
Heritage Identifications
Illicit Drug Use
1.06* (1.01 to 1.18)
Heritage Values
Sexual Risk Taking
0.91*** (0.87 to 0.96)
Heritage Identifications
Sexual Risk Taking
1.06* (1.01 to 1.12)
RESULTS
East Asians
For East Asians from immigrant families, the following results
emerged:
Predictor
Health Risk Subscale
American Identifications Hazardous Alcohol Use
β/IRR (95% CI)
.09*
American Values
Illicit Drug Use
0.85* (0.73 to 0.99)
American Practices
Sexual Risk Taking
1.19** (1.05 to 1.34)
RESULTS
South Asians
For South Asians from immigrant families, the following results
emerged:
Predictor
Health Risk Subscale
β
American Values
Hazardous Alcohol Use
.16***
Heritage Identifications
Hazardous Alcohol Use
-.27***
CONCLUSIONS
There are a few important points to take away from these
results:
1. Acculturation is clearly not a unidimensional phenomenon,
where acquiring American cultural orientations means
discarding one’s heritage orientations.
2. Acculturation is also multidimensional in terms of the
processes that are assumed to change – where practices,
values, and identifications represent separate but related
components of acculturation.
3. The present results also support Sue and Chu’s (2003)
contention that acculturation is related differently to health
outcomes for different ethnic groups.
CONCLUSIONS
With some exceptions, the present results do not support the
“immigrant paradox,” where acquiring American orientations is
assumed to be associated with increased health risks and
problems.
Rather, it appears to be loss of heritage cultural orientations –
especially traditional practices and collectivist values – that is
associated with health risks in the present sample.
Interestingly, American practices, values, and identifications
appeared to be most harmful for East and South Asians, and
less so for other ethnic groups.
This may be because, among immigrant groups, Asians are
among the most likely to prefer English over their heritage
languages (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001, 2006).
CONCLUSIONS
Also interestingly, for Hispanics, heritage identifications were
positively associated with drug use and sexual risk taking.
One possible reason for this might be that current immigration
debates center largely around Hispanic immigrants (e.g.,
Huntington, 2004).
Especially when the correlation between heritage practices and
identifications is controlled (as is the case in regression
approaches), the unique variability in heritage identifications
might index defensive ethnic identifications (reactive ethnicity;
Rumbaut, 2008).
This is especially tenable given that most of the Hispanics in our
sample came from Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California – all
states where immigration is a divisive issue.
CONCLUSIONS
So, to sum up:
•Acculturation is a complex process, and this complexity needs
to be taken into account when conducting health-related
research (Schwartz et al., 2010).
•Acculturation is not a “one size fits all” experience. Depending
on their ethnicity – and likely their receiving context as well –
individuals go through the acculturation process differently
(Steiner, 2009), and the process is differentially associated with
health outcomes.
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