Bicultural in America
I did some research on bicultural understanding in America from different ethnic groups. It’s a glimpse of what the understanding of a bicultural identity, perspectives, and experiences. I wanted to find out what my children would be considered like in America and the bias they will face. Here is what I found and there will be more to come. In today’s increasingly diverse and mobile world, growing numbers of individuals have internalized more than one culture (due to forced or voluntary migration, mixed cultural heritage/social networks, or frequent travel); these individuals can be described as bicultural or multicultural. In the USA, 12% of the population is foreign born, 33% non-White, and 19% speak a language other than English at home (US Census, 2005). Aside from the foreign-born population, there is a large number of US-born ethnic and cultural minorities (e.g., children and grandchildren of immigrants) for whom identiﬁcation and involvement with their ethnic cultures, in addition to mainstream US culture, are the norm (Phinney, 1996).
Bicultural identity is the condition of being oneself regarding the combination of two cultures. The term can also be defined as biculturalism, which is the presence of two different cultures in the same country or region. As a general term, culture involves the behaviors and belief characteristics of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. Within culture, we have cultural effects, which are the shared behaviors and customs we learn from the institutions around us. An example of a cultural effect would be how an individual’s personality is strongly influenced by the biological and social norms he is exposed to. Another cultural effect would be that in some societies it would be more acceptable to dress or act in a certain way.
In regard to bicultural identity, an individual may face conflict assimilating into both cultures or finding a balance between both. An individual may face challenges assimilating into the whole, collective culture. Similarly, an individual may face difficulty balancing their identity within themselves due to the influence of both of their cultures. Bicultural identity also may have positive effects on the individual, in terms of the additional knowledge they acquire from belonging to more than one culture. Furthermore, with the growing number of racial minorities in American society, individuals that identify with more than one culture may have more linguistic ability.
Language is an essential aspect of any culture. Individuals are able to maintain key aspects of their culture by maintaining their culture’s language. Language is important because it is an oral form of how people interact with other people within a society. Language reinforces the ties among the people who speak the same language, and thus encourages cultural bonding. Thus, by preserving the language within both of one’s cultures, one can maintain one’s integration within each culture. However, this can result in a difficulty in integrating one’s cultures if each has a distinct, different language as it can prevent outsiders from understanding that particular culture.
Cultural frame switching
The concept of cultural frame switching (CFS) or double consciousness made popular by W.E.B Du Bois addresses how an individual switches between cultural frames or systems in response to their environment. The presence of culture-specific peers can elicit culture-specific values. CFS can be used to describe the switching of different language use depending on the context. Thus, CFS can be connected to cultural accommodation, which is seen when bilinguals respond to situations with the language that applies best to the situation present. It is evident that language can have an effect on an individual’s thinking process; this is because the language itself primes the individual’s cultural values, attitudes and memory which in turn affects behavior. Thus, language has a powerful effect on the way in which an individual responds to change.
African American culture
African American culture is also known as black culture in the United States and the identity of African American culture is rooted in the historical experience of the African American people. It is rooted in Africa, and is a blend of sub-Saharan African and Sahelean cultures. Due to aspects of African American culture that were accentuated by the slavery period, African American culture is dynamic. Within the African American culture, race or physical differences led to mass murder, and violence against racial groups. These occurrences may affect an individual’s perception of their African American culture. In America, Black and White differences are the most significant groupings largely because of American history. The US was founded on the principle of “all men are equal” and yet slavery existed. This is what resulted in the American Dilemma. Thus, due to historical reasons, and because they are often stereotyped, African Americans have difficulty assimilating with their culture and American culture.
A central goal of African American parents, like all parents, is to manage their children’s behavior, but they are also faced with the unique task of preparing their children to develop a positive racial self-concept and, when faced with racism and discrimination, strategies to cope with their racial group membership (Boykin & Toms, 1985; Peters, 1985; Ward, 2000). Research and theory on parenting processes associated with children’s behavior outcomes and those associated with racial socialization have developed separately, although recent research has moved towards examining how aspects of racial socialization are related to problem behaviors (e.g., Caughy, O’Campo, Randolph, & Nickerson, 2002; Stevenson, Herrero-Taylor, Cameron, & Davis, 2002). This area of research, at the crossroads of culturally specific and general parenting practices, should be of interest to applied researchers interested in developing culturally relevant interventions for parents of color and basic researchers interested in risk and protective factors that influence child outcomes in African American families, particularly those living in impoverished neighborhoods.
Racial socialization is the primary vehicle of cultural transmission for African American families, steeped in a tradition of resistance to oppression and embedded in “conversations and actions that communicate to [our] children how to survive with dignity and pride in a racist world.” (Stevenson, Davis, & Abdul-Kabir, 2001 p. 46). In the present study, the interrelationship of racial socialization strategies, parental stress, parental mental health, discipline effectiveness, monitoring and child externalizing behaviors among low-income inner city African American families were examined.
Ethnographic research by Jarrett (1999) with African American parents living in conditions of neighborhood disadvantage suggests that they rely greatly on the effective and sometimes restrictive use of discipline strategies and parental monitoring to protect their children from harm. Indeed, numerous studies suggest that strategies such as the effective use of discipline and parental monitoring are strong influences on youth behavioral outcomes (Capaldi, 1992; Capaldi & Patterson, 1991; Conger, Patterson, & Ge, 1995; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992). However, prior research also indicates that parenting under conditions of economic hardship can be characterized by harsh and inconsistent parenting, marked by the frequent use of restrictions and physical punishment, a high value placed on obedience, and the absence of reasoning when providing discipline Conger, et al., 1992; Halpern, 1990; Hanson, McLanahan, & Thomson, 1997; Kelley, Power, & Wimbush, 1992; McLoyd, 1990, 1998; Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992; Simons, Johnson, Beaman, Conger, & Whitbeck, 1996).
These parenting practices may be maladaptive responses to the stressors associated with poverty or a reaction to the intuitive knowledge of parents that family poverty and neighborhood risk are associated higher risk for participation in antisocial behavior among youth, which is supported by prior longitudinal and cross-sectional studies (Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000; McLoyd, 1990). Given that research suggests that African American children are more likely to experience persistent poverty (McLoyd, 1998), it is not surprising that negative outcomes disproportionately impact minority youth who are over represented among the poor in distressed areas (Steinberg, 2002; Wilson, 1987).
Although longitudinal, cross-sectional, and randomized control trials of interventions, overall, present a gloomy picture of parenting school-age children and adolescents in poor African American neighborhoods, there is surprisingly little research on factors that protect children from developing behavior problems. Three trends in research offer some directions for exploring critical parenting practices that may protect children in impoverished minority communities from the negative effects of poverty. First, in a line of research focused on the influence of neighborhood disadvantage on child development, there are relatively few studies with preadolescents that examine externalizing behaviors (Plybon & Kliewer, 2001), preadolescence being an important developmental stage to explore since problem behavior in these years is associated with serious delinquency later in adolescence. In one large scale cross-sectional study of 1,271 African American and White 2nd through 5th graders, African American boys were found to be more aggressive, than African American girls or White boys and girls. These findings support the neighborhood risk model with children residing in high-risk neighborhoods being more prone to social or behavioral problems; however, this study did not address the processes through which neighborhood disadvantage influenced outcomes (Plybon & Kliewer, 2001), nor were any hypotheses developed with regards to explaining these racial group differences.
Second, there are no studies in the literature on parenting that explore the combined effects of culturally relevant parenting practices (i.e., racial socialization) and “universal” parenting practices (i.e. discipline effectiveness and monitoring) on the development of behavior problems in school-age children in low-income communities (for an exception see Coard, Wallace, Stevenson, & Brotman, 2004), a particularly glaring gap given the ample research on the greater prevalence of behavior problems in low-income neighborhoods of color. Lastly, psychological research is sparse with regards to the mechanisms that serve to protect and promote risk and resilience in children from low-income neighborhoods (for an exception, see Furstenberg et al., 1999). Recent work by Spencer et al. (1996) applying ecological systems theory to African American youth in low-income communities typifies the movement towards integrating an ecological approach in psychological research to understand parental buffering processes among low-income African American youth. We believe racial socialization is one such factor, unique to African American families, that serves to protect children from the harmful effects of racism and discrimination and simultaneously prevents the development of problem behaviors through generic positive parenting practices.
Asian American culture
Individuals having origins within the Far East, Southeast Asia or the Indian subcontinent are referred to as Asian under the U.S. Census Bureau. Asian American complete 4.8% of the U.S. population alone. Asian Americans have had the highest educational attainment level and median household income of any racial demographic in the country and attain the highest median personal income overall, as of 2008. Thus, Asian American Culture is often depicted as the most similar culture to American Culture. Asian Americans often communicate non-verbally and/or indirectly, and often are not as bold or upfront as other cultures in terms of their communication. The Asian American way of life is much more group-oriented or holistic and thus the way in which they interpret the world is systematically different from American Culture in terms of thought process and lifestyle. This may make it difficult for Asian Americans to assimilate easily into American culture.
In an attempt to model the dynamics of biculturalism, Hong and her colleagues (Hong, Benet-Martı´nez, Chiu, & Morris, 2003; Hong, Morris, Chiu, & BenetMartı´nez, 2000) introduced and tested the concept of cultural frame-switching (CFS). CFS refers to the process by which bicultural individuals move between their two cultural meaning systems in response to cultural cues in the environment. Speciﬁcally, Hong and her colleagues have shown that Asian-American biculturals made more internal attributions, a characteristically Western attribution style (Morris & Peng, 1994), after being primed with American cues, but made more external attributions, a characteristically East Asian attribution style, after being primed with Chinese cues. Biculturals’ CFS eﬀects have been successfully replicated across diﬀerent samples and behavioral domains (e.g., Gardner, Gabriel, & Dean, 2004; Lau-Gesk, 2003; Verkuyten & Pouliasi, 2002). Together, these studies demonstrated that individuals can have more than one cultural meaning system, and that these individuals (i.e., biculturals) can move between their two cultural orientations quite ﬂuidly.
Hispanic American culture
Hispanic and Latino Americans have origins in the countries of Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula consisting of Spain and Portugal. Hispanic Americans are very racially diverse. Hispanics constitute 16.5% of the total United States population. Hispanic Americans often are very religiously oriented and focus on family values and the importance of intergenerational connections. This may cause difficulty in integration with American culture, as the Hispanic community often emphasizes the importance of helping one’s family and advancing as a family rather than simply individual success, which is more prominent within American Culture. Similarly, Hispanics may have difficulty associating with American Culture because of the language culture, as most Hispanics can speak Spanish. The ability to speak Spanish is valued greatly within Hispanic culture, as it is greatly used during social gatherings and amongst extended family. The Spanish language is a significant part of Hispanic culture, and because of the vast amount of racial differences within Hispanic Americans, the way in which Spanish is spoken within the different racial groups is often different. This makes it not only difficult to assimilate into American culture but to often assimilate with the different races in Hispanic America.
In the last 10 years, the southeastern United States has experienced a significant increase in the Latino population (Brown & Lopez, 2013). North Carolina’s Latino population is estimated at 828,000, accounting for 9% of the state’s total population. Of those Latinos in North Carolina, 47% are foreign born, meaning the other 53% are Latino Americans born in the United States. In comparison, 36% of the national Latino population is foreign born (Brown & Lopez, 2013). Latino children and adolescents who are raised in the U.S. by foreign-born parents must navigate the complex process of acculturation. Even adolescents who were born in the U.S., or immigrated at such a young age that they lack concrete memories of their country of origin, will experience a culture in their homes that differs greatly from the culture they encounter at school and in other settings where U.S. culture is dominant. In North Carolina, there are more than 200,000 school-aged (K-12) Latino children, and approximately 81% of Latino children speak a language other than English at home with their families (Pew Research Center, 2013). This means that institutions and communities of North Carolina are navigating new territory in adapting practices and policies to this culturally diverse population. Latino families in North Carolina must navigate the complex process of acculturation. Acculturation means living in an environment with more than one culture, and negotiating more than one set of values, norms, and identities as a result (Bacallao & Smokowski, 2009). There are differing theories on how the process of acculturation occurs, and the process in part determines the outcome for how the individual immigrant forms their new identity and values. One theory relies on a one-directional process of change, and results in an immigrant who has assimilated entirely to the host culture, trading the cultural norms and values from their country of origin for those of the host culture. Another suggests a process of bidirectional change, in which the individual adopts the host culture while still maintaining their culture of origin. For this to be possible, the host culture must adapt in order to accommodate the immigrant’s culture of origin (Bacallao & Smokowski, 2009). Unfortunately, this has been a slow process in North Carolina, in part because the Latino immigrant population is more newly arrived than the average for the national Latino population.
For Latino adolescents, the stress inherent in acculturation is unavoidable. The most harmful impact may be racial discrimination, both overt and implicit, which may impact adolescents’ or families’ access to resources. Yet even in more modest forms, Latino adolescents must deal with the daily stressors resulting from pressure to adopt the majority culture, pressure to maintain their culture of origin, and feelings of ‘otherness’ as they try to negotiate their identity in multiple spheres. Latino adolescents may experience the added strain of acculturating at a different rate than their parents (Bacallao & Smokowski, 2007). Although all Latino adolescents are likely to experience some level of acculturation-related stress, there are also studies highlighting biculturalism in Latino adolescents as strength, providing many protective factors (Bacallao & Smokowski, 2009).
What is Biculturalism?
The acculturation literature, from which the concept of biculturalism was originally derived [Berry, 1997; Szapocznik, Kurtines, & Fernandez, 1980], has focused primarily on cultural behaviors such as language use, choice of friends, media preferences, and the like [Cabassa, 2003]. From this perspective, individuals are considered bicultural if they speak both the language of their heritage cultural context and the language of their receiving cultural context, have friends from both cultural backgrounds, and watch television programs and read magazines from both cultural contexts. Some writers [e.g., Benet-Martínez, Leu, Lee, & Morris, 2002] have gone even further, suggesting that true biculturalism involves synthesizing the heritage and receiving cultures into a unique and personalized blend. From this perspective, the bicultural individual selects aspects from the heritage and receiving cultures and integrates them into an individualized ‘culture’ that is not directly reducible to either the heritage or receiving cultural streams. For example, a Chinese American person might eat hamburgers together with traditional Chinese vegetables, might speak ‘Chinglish,’ and might mix in social groups that include both Chinese and American friends.
We would argue here, however, that biculturalism involves more than just cultural behaviors. Along with our colleagues, we [Schwartz, Unger, Zamboanga, & Szapocznik, submitted] have called for an expanded definition of acculturation that includes cultural practices, values, and identifications. Our view holds that a truly bicultural person would intermix their heritage and receiving cultural streams with regard to cultural practices, values, and identifications. This means that biculturalism implies not just behaving in ways consistent with the two cultural contexts, but also holding values from one’s heritage and receiving cultural streams, as well as identifying with both cultures (e.g., as a Chinese American rather than just ‘Chinese’ or just ‘American,’ although either identification may be most salient in specific situations) [Benet-Martínez et al., 2002]. For example, our hypothetical Chinese American person might intermix traditional Asian values, such as deference to authority and respect for parents, with individualistic American values, such as confronting interpersonal disagreements directly and working hard to achieve personal success and recognition [Park & Kim, 2008]. The person might also feel an allegiance both to the United States and to China, as well as to the local Chinese community. She might feel Chinese in comparison to her American peers and feel American in comparison to her Chinese peers, but she can function effectively in both cultural contexts.