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Cross Cultural Practices, Cultural Diversity & Ethical Boundaries: Overcoming Barriers to Counseling Effectiveness
Ethics - Acculturation
Research on new immigrants and refugees has largely focused on adults, and the immigrant youth has been neglected (e.g., Roysircar-Sodowsky & Maestas, 2000; Sodowsky & Carey, 1987; Sodowsky et al., 1991). Due to the fact that adolescence is a critical period of development (Herring, 1997), examining the adjustment process of adolescents is especially relevant.
Berry and colleagues (Berry, Kim, Power, Young, & Bujaki, 1989; Berry & Sam, 1997) have identified four coping strategies that individuals use in the acculturation process: assimilation (interaction with individuals from the host culture and devaluation of one's own culture), integration (maintenance of one's culture as well as interaction with individuals from the host culture), marginalization (rejection of one's culture of origin as well as avoidance of individuals from the host culture), and separation (maintenance of one's culture of origin and minimal interaction with other groups, especially individuals from the host culture). While it is possible that the acculturation process will proceed without any problems, it may also be stressful and result in adaptation difficulties (Berry, 1997).
The strategies described above are just some of the factors that have been found to be significantly associated with the mental health of immigrants and refugees in the United States (Krishnan & Berry, 1992; Sam, 1994; Sam & Berry, 1995), with integration identified as the most adaptive and marginalization as the least adaptive (Berry, 1997; Berry & Sam, 1997; Sam & Berry, 1995). Further, LaFromboise, Coleman, and Gerton (1993) have proposed that individuals may develop the ability to negotiate two cultures comfortably without sacrificing their identification with either culture. It is also important to understand that race and ethnicity play an important role in the identity and acculturation processes (Alvarez, Kohatsu, Liu, & Yeh, 1996).
For adolescent immigrants, ethnic identity is particularly important. A number of studies (e.g., Phinney, 1989; Tajfel, 1981; Tajfel & Turner, 1986) have found that a strong sense of ethnic identity is related to higher self-esteem. However, ethnic minority adolescents may experience discrimination, which could compromise their sense of pride in their culture of origin and limit their aspirations and achievements. In addition, adolescent immigrants are also at a stage in life where they are struggling with issues of autonomy and separation from parents (Rosenthal & Feldman, 1996). The process of identity formation may be especially challenging for immigrant youths because they are simultaneously trying to learn a new language, dealing with a new culture, relating to peers, and experiencing academic and parental pressures (Lynch, 1992; Zheng & Berry, 1991).
Ethics - Mental Health Concerns
Chinese American and Japanese American students have been found to experience more isolation, loneliness, nervousness, and anxiety, as well as less autonomy, than other students (Sue & Frank, 1973). They have also been found to have lower self-concept scores (Pang, Mizokawa, Morishima, & Olstad, 1985) and greater levels of intrapersonal and interpersonal distress (Abe & Zane, 1990) than their white peers. Similarly, first-generation Japanese have reported greater stress, lower self-esteem, and more external locus of control as compared to later-generation Japanese Americans (Padilla et al., 1985). Homma-True (1997) further indicated that compared to U.S.-born Japanese Americans, recent Japanese immigrants are confronted with the stress of adjusting to a new environment, specifically linguistic, cultural, and lifestyle differences.
One of the major difficulties immigrants face is the language barrier (Yeh & Inose, 2002). Regarding English as a second language, Japan is ranked in the top 5% of nations in the world in terms of reading comprehension, but is ranked in the bottom 10% in terms of conversational ability (Enloe & Lewin, 1987). In a study of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrant high school and junior high school students, Yeh and Inose (2002) found that communication difficulties due to insufficient proficiency in English posed the largest challenge, which may lead to mental health concerns if this issue is unaddressed.
Rethinking the Concept of Acculturation:
- Schwartz, S. J., Unger, J. B., Zamboanga, B. L., and Szapocznik, J. (2010). Rethinking the Concept of Acculturation: Implications for Theory and Research. Am Psychol., 65(4). p. 237-251. doi:10.1037/a0019330
Reflection Exercise #1
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