Acculturation and Psychological Well-Being Among Children of Asian and Hispanic Immigrants: A Bicultural Perspective
Informed by Berry’s (1997) theory of acculturation, this study sets out to empirically investigate the relationship between acculturation and psychological well-being of children from Asian and Hispanic immigrant families in the U.S. Four hypotheses are under test: (1) Integration (or the bicultural orientation) is related to better psychological outcomes than other acculturation orientations including assimilation, separation and marginalization; (2) Assimilation is related to better outcomes than separation and marginalization; (3) Separation is related to better outcomes than marginalization; and (4) Bicultural behaviors and identity are related to better outcomes than unidimensional acculturation behaviors and identity.
Method: The study sample is from the second wave of the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS). A total of 3,712 children of Hispanic (61.6%) and Asian (38.4%) immigrants is analyzed in the present study, with a mean age of 17.2 years and 51% being female. Psychological well-being is assessed by a widely used standardized instrument—the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965). Acculturation orientations are measured by two four-item Likert-type scales, i.e., the English proficiency index and the foreign language proficiency index. Scores on the indexes are recoded into four acculturation orientations: integration, assimilation, separation and marginalization. Acculturation behaviors are measured by two questions tapping language preference (ethnic language, English language and bilingual preferences) and patterns of language use with parents (ethnic language, English language and bilingual patterns), respectively. Identity-based acculturation is measured by a single question tapping three types of self-identification (national-origin, American and bicultural identities).Two multiple regression models are established to test the hypotheses. Self-esteem is regressed on gender (as a covariate) and two sets of dummy variables with the bicultural orientation, behaviors and identity as references.
Results: Results show that integration is associated with higher self-esteem than assimilation (b=.20, p<.001), separation (b=.30, p<.001) and marginalization (b=.34, p<.001). Assimilation is also related to higher self-esteem than separation (b=.10, p<.001) and marginalization (b=.14, p<.001). No significant difference is found between separation and marginalization. In addition, ethnic language preference (b=-.09, p<.01), English use with parents (b=-.09, p<.01), ethnic language use with parents (b=-.06, p<.05), and national-origin identity (b=-.09, p<.001), are all related to lower self-esteem than bicultural behaviors and identity. English preference, however, is associated with higher self-esteem than bilingual preference (b=.07, p<.01). American identity is not different from bicultural identity in predicting self-esteem.
Implications: These findings suggest the important role of a bicultural perspective in shaping psychological outcomes among children of immigrants from diverse backgrounds. Social work researchers and practitioners, therefore, need to develop and implement programs that can nurture bicultural orientations, behaviors and identities among children of immigrants.