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Biculturalism, mental health, and the cultural environment: a longitudinal approach to examining the person-environment fit hypothesis

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Twenty-five percent of Americans are first- or second-generation immigrants (US Census, 2012). Thus, it is likely that many Americans identify with at least two cultures, that of the mainstream United

Twenty-five percent of Americans are first- or second-generation immigrants (US Census, 2012). Thus, it is likely that many Americans identify with at least two cultures, that of the mainstream United States culture, and their ethnic culture from which they came, making them bicultural. However, current understanding of the impact of biculturalism on psychological functioning is quite limited in scope, as few studies have examined this association longitudinally or considered the moderating role of the cultural environment. The present study proposed to take a more comprehensive approach in understanding the consequences of biculturalism on psychological outcomes (i.e., depression, anxiety, and substance abuse symptoms) among Mexican American adolescents, as they belong to one of largest and fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States (US Census, 2013). The present study had two major goals. The first was to examine the influence of biculturalism on depression, anxiety, and substance abuse symptoms longitudinally over the course of two years. It was hypothesized that overall, biculturalism will lead to less depression, anxiety, and substance abuse symptoms. The results partially supported these predictions. For males, biculturalism was related to significantly fewer anxiety symptoms, but not for females. Further, no main effects of biculturalism were found for depression and substance abuse for males or females. The second goal of the study was to examine the potential moderating role of the cultural environment on the influence of biculturalism on mental health symptoms. It was hypothesized that bicultural individuals will exhibit less mental health symptoms in bicultural environments (person-environment fit) compared to more monocultural individuals (person-environment misfit). However, no differences are expected to ii emerge between bicultural and monocultural individuals in monocultural environments, as both groups should be well adapted in these settings. The results did not fully support these predictions. Though, biculturalism for male adolescents was related to significantly fewer anxiety symptoms in home environments where parents reported moderate degrees of biculturalism, and females' biculturalism was related to significantly fewer depression symptoms in neighborhood environments that were relatively bicultural; no effects of biculturalism were found in environments that were the most bicultural. The implications of the findings are discussed.

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  • 2014

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Sharam Nahi Aundi?: Navigating Culture, Religion, Gender and Sexuality in a Colonized World

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A preliminary critical ethnographic study was conducted to garner Punjabi Sikh U.S. young adults’ understandings and experiences with their cultural, religious, gender, and sexual identity development. Nine participants from King

A preliminary critical ethnographic study was conducted to garner Punjabi Sikh U.S. young adults’ understandings and experiences with their cultural, religious, gender, and sexual identity development. Nine participants from King County, Washington were interviewed and engaged in a weeklong self-reflective journal writing activity. This data was then analyzed alongside existing scholarship. This study indicates that participants experience challenges in navigating their bicultural identity, grappling with the historical and present trauma their communities endure. Additionally, to navigate such challenges, Punjabi Sikh U.S. young adults invoke various methods to negotiate their various cultures, identities, and desires, and remain resilient.

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  • 2019

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Bicultural Competence Development Among U.S. Mexican-Origin Adolescents

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Biculturalism embodies the degree to which individuals adapt to living within two cultural systems and develop the ability to live effectively across those two cultures. It represents, therefore, a normative

Biculturalism embodies the degree to which individuals adapt to living within two cultural systems and develop the ability to live effectively across those two cultures. It represents, therefore, a normative developmental task among members of immigrant and ethnic-racial minority groups, and has important implications for psychosocial adjustment. Despite a strong theoretical focus on contextual influences in biculturalism scholarship, the ways in which proximal contexts shape its development are understudied. In my dissertation, I examine the mechanisms via which the family context might influence the development of bicultural competence among a socio-economically diverse sample of 749 U.S. Mexican-origin youths (30% Mexico-born) followed for 7 years (Mage = 10.44 to 17.38 years; Wave 1 to 4).

In study 1, I investigated how parents’ endorsements of values associated with both mainstream and heritage cultures relate to adolescents’ bicultural competence. Longitudinal growth model analyses revealed that parents’ endorsements of mainstream and heritage values simultaneously work to influence adolescents’ bicultural competence. By examining the effect of multiple and often competing familial contextual influences on adolescent bicultural competence development, this work provides insights on intergenerational cultural transmission and advances scholarship on the culturally bounded nature of human development.

In study 2, I offer a substantial extension to decades of family stress model research focused on how family environmental stressors may compromise parenting behaviors and youth development by testing a culturally informed family stress model. My model (a) incorporates family cultural and ecological stressors, (b) focuses on culturally salient parenting practices aimed to teach youth about the heritage culture (i.e., ethnic socialization), and (c) examines bicultural competence as a developmental outcome. Findings suggest that parents’ high exposure to ecological stressors do not compromise parental ethnic socialization or adolescent bicultural competence development. On the other hand, mothers’ exposures to enculturative stressors can disrupt maternal ethnic socialization, and in turn, undermine adolescents’ bicultural competence. By examining the influence of multiple family environmental stressors on culturally salient parenting practices, and their implications for adolescent bicultural competence development, this work provides insights on ethnic-racial minority and immigrant families’ adapting cultures and advances scholarship on the family stress model.

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  • 2019