Cultural and racial diversity are characteristics that permeate our society. The cultural differences that are present in people from different backgrounds have an impact on nearly every aspect of life. The field of psychology and the manner in which psychological treatment is delivered is profoundly affected by the cultural background of the client. The purpose of this discussion is to analyze and synthesize current or recent Literature looking at the psychology of diversity focusing on Mexican-Americans and acculturation, looking at the family and issues in the family with marital status, issues with children, and work issues.
Importance of acculturation
Acculturation is an issue that permeates many different disciplines and the manner in which these disciplines are practiced. According to Rudmin (2003)
"Acculturation comprehends those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups (3). " The article also explains there are several reasons why the issue of acculturation is a topic of increasing importance. These reasons are includsive of the following:
(1) Advents such as the internet have made people and cultures all around the world accessible to one another and as such acculturation is more likely to occur (Rudmin, 2003).
(2) Factors such as war, political oppression, economic disparities, and environmental pressures cause millions of people to migrate to the United States each year (Rudmin, 2003).
(3) Both regional and global free-trade measures promote the presence of international marketing and international recruitment of personnel with certain skill sets (Rudmin, 2003).
(4) Open-minded political ideologies of the dominant, developed nations result in their governments, their minorities, and their academics promoting acculturative rights (Rudmin, 2003).
Understanding acculturation as it pertains to Mexican-Americans is important to the field of psychology because it allows psychologists to devise treatments that are consistent with the impact of acculturation on Mexican-American culture. America has long been a diverse place, in recent decades the presence of people of Mexican descent has grown drastically. As a result the field of psychology must put greater emphasis on the ways in which cultural backgrounds impact behaviors and the types of psychological treatment that people require.
Acculturation and Mexican-Americans
Several studies have focused on the ways in which acculturation has effected Mexican-Americans in recent years. One such study evaluated the impact of White American body image on Mexican-American body image and eating disorders. In this study Warren et al. (2010) report that many women of different cultures in the United Sates have become acculturated to the degree that the body image of the whit woman has become the body image that they also aspire to have. Within the trational Mexican culture, the author explains that having a curvy physique is prized and revered because it is important as it pertains to both the social role and value of women in that society. With this understood the physical attributes that are often prized amongst White American women are different than those traditionally held by Mexicans. The authors further explain that
The majority culture in the United States, referred to as White American or Western culture, stipulates that physical appearance is fundamental to a woman's worth and role in society and that the ideal body is very thin and fit (Katz, 1985). Theoretically, the strong cultural emphasis placed on attainment of the ideal physique predisposes women living in White American culture to become preoccupied and dissatisfied with their appearance (Warren et al. 2010, 44). "
Although this obsession with body image does not always occur amongst non-white women, there is an increased likelihood that the issue will arise depending on the level of acculturation. The authors' findings suggest that women with the most exposure to Whit culture were more likely to struggle with body image and were more vulnerable to eating disorders than other groups. This finding suggest that the more that a Mexican-American is steeped in traditional Mexican belifs the less likely they are to accept White body image as the norm or the only acceptable way to look. This finding has implications for understanding why the manner in which body image is portrayed has a profound impact on those who see these images repetitively regardless of their cultural background.
In addition to body image, there are other instances when acculturation has an impact on Mexican-Americans. For instance, according to Capps et al. (2010) acculturation also affects parenting Amongst Mexican-American fathers. The authors report that a great deal of the research concerning acculturation and parenting involves mothers. For this reason Capps et al. examined the impact of acculturation on fatherhood as it pertained to Chinese and Mexican men. The study was conducted amongst men who reside with their children. The results of the research assert that "English language use is positively associated with physical care and nurturing activities for Mexican fathers (Capps et al. 2010, 61)." That is, the more English that a Mexican-American father knows the more likely they are to be involved in caring for and nurturing the child. There are several reasons for this but the most common reason is that Mexican-Americans who speak a greater amount of English can better understand the themes espoused by American culture because speaking the language in many ways makes them more acculturated.
This is an interesting finding because it suggests that Mexican-American men who learn English are more likely to be involved in their children's life in a manner that is often handled by mothers. When this is the case, the outcomes are often favorable for the children. Although some forms of acculturation can be detrimental to the preservation of tradition cultural ideologies, they can also be quite beneficial when they are focused on certain areas of life.
Also as it pertains to acculturation and Mexican-American parenting, Marsiglia et al. (2011) focused on "Hopelessness, Family Stress, and Depression among Mexican-Heritage Mothers in the Southwest." In this particular study the participants were 136 Mexican heritage mothers living in a large city in the southwestern United States. The study found that
"From a risk-and-resiliency perspective, hopelessness was approached as a culturally specific response to family stress and other challenges encountered by Mexican immigrants…Culturally rooted resiliency and a sense of optimism connected to immigration appear to shelter Mexican-heritage mothers from hopelessness and depression. A very large households and nonworking status were found to elevate the risk of hopelessness. Because poverty and acculturation levels were not related to hopelessness or depression, further culturally specific research distinguishing hopelessness from depression is recommended (Marsiglia et al. 2011,7)."
This finding indicates that acculturation does not necessarily have an influence on the hopelessness or depression of Mexican mothers. The study indicates instead that feeling associated with hopelessness and depression are more likely to be caused by poverty or lack of employment. While acculturation can cause negative outcomes, in this case there are more pressing issues that influence behavior and actions.
In addition to body image and parenting acculturation also has an influence on academic aspirations and achievements. In their study, Carranza et al. (2009) examined aspirations and achievements of Mexican-American Adolescents as it pertained to self-esteem, parental involvement and acculturation. Carranza et al. (2009) explain that this issue is of particular concern because of the high growth rates of Mexican-American students in the public school system. Studies have shown that many Mexican-American students struggle academically and often become disengaged and dropout of school. As such it is important to understand the issues that impact school performance. In the past several studies have examined this issue and "Acculturation has been viewed as an important influence on Mexican-American students' educational outcomes & #8230;Studies that have addressed this relationship suggest that acculturation has a positive relationship with Mexican-American adolescents' academic performance That is, the higher students score on acculturation measures, the higher they rate their educational outcomes (Carranza et al. 2009, 313)."
As it pertained to acculturation this study has implications for the public school system, particularly in areas of the country where there are significant numbers of Mexican students. The research will likely assist teachers and administrators in placing greater emphasis on the positive aspects of acculturation. Emphasizing these attributes may assist students in having greater success in the classroom. This type of academic success could assist some Mexican-American students to continue their education endeavors past high school which insists in improving poverty levels.
Meyer et al. (2006) asserts that acculturation also has an impact on the self-esteem of Mexican-Americans. The study involved elderly Mexican-Americans. The researchers found a positive correlation between language acculturation and self-esteem amongst this population. In addition the research indicates that "depressive symptoms mediate and moderate the association of acculturation on self-esteem. Language acculturation among older Mexican-Americans is positively associated with self-esteem, even when individuals experience depressive symptoms. Findings suggest that acculturation influences multiple dimensions of mental health (Meyer et al. 2006, 182)." This finding indicates that the overall mental health of elderly Mexican-Americans can be, in some ways, related to their level of acculturation