Positive psychological and sociocultural adaptation (integration/biculturalism) in the first generation of hispanic immigrant youth
Acculturation is the process of cultural and psychological change that follows intercultural contact (Berry, 2003). In the first studies about acculturation, the concept was defined as an unidimensional process in which the immigrant progressively assimilates with the dominant culture group. At the present time, the acculturation is viewed in a bidimensional perspective with two different processes occurring simultaneously: the maintenance of the culture of origin and the adaption to the new host culture. According to Berry, the individuals could be acculturated in four ways: (a) assimilation, the immigrants have little interest in the cultural maintenance combined with a preference for interacting with the host culture, (b) separation, the immigrants pursue the cultural maintenance while avoiding the involvement with others, (c) marginalization, the immigrants are not pursuing neither cultural maintenance nor interactions with others, and (d) integration, the immigrants pursue both, the cultural maintenance and the involvement with a larger society. In the case of the youth, the integration profile has the most beneficial outcomes in the psychological and sociocultural adaptation. However, some ethnic profiles promote also a positive psychological adaptation, although with a less sociocultural involvement (Berry, 2006).
The stress is a broad concept with multiples definitions. According to the Transactional Model, the stressors are “demands made by the internal or external environment that upset balance, thus affecting physical and psychological well-being and requiring action to restore balance (Lazarus & Cohen, 1977). Using this model we can understand the acculturation stress as the individual reactions to the adaptation challenge to a new culture. In the case of a Latino immigrant, Caplan (2007) has identified three dimensions of the acculturative stress: (a) instrumental/environmental dimension which included stressors such as financial hardships, language barriers, unsafe neighborhoods, unemployment and lack of education; (b) social/interpersonal dimensions which includes the loss of social networks, the loss of social status, family conflicts, intergenerational conflicts and changing gender roles. (c) Societal dimension which includes the discrimination and racial stigma, the legal status and political/historial forces involved in the migratory process. The relation between social stress and health behaviors is complex and not easily explained. Despite this, it has been demonstrated a strong correlation between high psychosocial stressors and negative health outcomes (Marmot & Wilkinson 2006, Weiss & Lonnquist 2009)
The knowledge of the host culture language is an important predictor of the immigrant adaptation. Feliciano (2001) has demonstrated that high bilingual skills are strongly related with decrease in the school dropout of Hispanic immigrants. These benefits in the school dropout are also demonstrated in Latino bilingual families. Another study (Romero and Roberts, 2003) has demonstrated that the monolingualism is associated with a major perceived stress in Mexican immigrant adolescents.
Cultural frame switching
The cultural frame switching is a psychological phenomenon of bicultural individuals that helps them to execute a rapid shift of values and attributions in the presence of culture-relevant stimuli. This trait facilitates the adaptation of immigrants to the host culture without losing its cultural identity (Benet-Martínez 2008, Ramírez-Esparza 2006)
The familism concept refers to “attitudes, behaviors, and family structure within an extended family system and is believed to be the most important factor influencing the lives of Latinos” (Cooley, 2001). The protective factor of familism in hispanic immigrants has been strongly reported in the literature; it has a negative association with the acculturative stress (Gil, 2000), it is a protective factor of child maltreatment in Latino families, and it lowers the adolescent aggression through the mediation of the parent-adolescent conflict (Smokowski, 2006). Besides, the preventive interventions that promote the familism have been efficacious in the prevention of externalizing behaviors, drug use and unsafe sexual behavior in Latino youth (Smokowski, 2009).
One of the main objectives of the adolescence is the identity development. In the case of the immigrant youth this task could be harder due to the presence of social stressors, such as negative racial stereotypes. Multiple studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between high ethnic identity and high self esteem in Latino adolescents (Umaña 2002, Phinney 2003). The integration of the ethnicity in a bicultural identity serves as a protective factor to externalizing and internalizing behaviors (Smokowski 2006).
The perceived discrimination has been widely studied as a risk factor to Latino adolescents. It has been associated positively with depressive symptoms and poor self esteem (Smokowski 2006, Umaña 2007), violent behavior (Smokowski 2009) and substance abuse (Okamoto 2009). The negative effects of this risk factor are reduced in presence of a high self esteem and a strong ethnic identity (Umaña 2007).
Intergenerational conflict (Parent-adolescent conflict)
The process of immigration produces a change in the family system. In the first generation of immigrants, it is usual that the adolescents integrate to the host culture more quickly than the parents. This acculturative gap could precipitate or exaggerate the parent-adolescent conflict. Smokowski (2003, 2006, 2009) has demonstrated quantitatively and qualitatively that this conflict increase the likelihood to develop health risk behaviors in adolescents, such as youth violence. Interventions focused to decrease this conflict through promoting the familism and integrating the parents to the host culture has been successful to decrease these behaviors (Pantin 2009, Szapocznik 2000).
Parental academic involvement
The parent involvement in schools has been associated with a better school functioning and reduction of behavioral problems (Coatsworth 2009, López 2009, Smokowski 2009). The language and cultural differences are the main barriers to a successful parental participation in schools. Interventions that increase the participation are successful reducing unhealthy behaviors in adolescents (Coatsworth 2009)
The multiculturalism in school is defined subjectively as “student’s perceptions of whether cultural diversity is valued, utilized, and encouraged both at the organizational (school) level and in the classroom”...