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Second Generation Migrants and the Acculturation Process:. an exploration of cultural identity, language use and social context in the construction of the bi-cultural self. Sylvia Collinetti Psychologist Thesis component for MA in Counselling Psychology Swinburne University of Technology.

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Second generation migrants and the acculturation process
Second Generation Migrants and the Acculturation Process:

an exploration of cultural identity, language use and social context in the construction of the bi-cultural self

Sylvia Collinetti


Thesis component for MA in Counselling Psychology

Swinburne University of Technology

Bi-cultural Self

What did this study explore
What did this study explore?

  • This study explored the acculturation process of second-generation migrants with a focus on:

  • Cultural identity

  • Language Use

  • Maintenance of heritage culture

  • Psychological wellbeing

  • Bi-lingual and Bi-cultural Self

Bi-cultural Self

Beginning phase of thesis thinking about cultural identity
Beginning Phase of Thesis:thinking about Cultural Identity

Cultural Identity:


Language Used

Social Context









Cultural Identity


Cultural Identity


Bi-Cultural ID





Bi-Cultural ID

Cultural ID A: Culture of Origin

Bi-cultural Self

Cultural ID B: Host Cultural

Second generation migrants and the acculturation process

Do they differ in the degree of acculturation?

Participants:2 Groups of Second Generation MigrantsA: Maintaining Language of Origin (LMG)B: Not Maintaining Language of Origin (NMG)


Identity B


Identity A


Identity B

Assimilated Integrated

Participants have assimilated to the Cultural Identity of the Host Culture

Participants have retained Cultural Identity from Country of Origin and Host Cultural

Current Study explored the ability to Switch between 2 Frames

Bi-cultural Self

Some important definitions
Some important definitions:

  • What is asecond generation migrant?

  • They are either born overseas and migrant at a very early age (0-7 years) or born in Australia from first generation migrants.

  • What does social identity state?

  • That cultural identity forms part of one’s in-group identity, which provides the person with a basis for valuing and feeling attachment to that group (Roberts & Phinney, 1999).

Bi-cultural Self


  • What is cultural identity?

  • “an individual’s awareness and appreciation of their heritage and values and the affective importance that they place on psychological membership in a particular cultural group (Gardiner et al 1998, p. 266).”


  • What are values?

  • Values are held by individuals within a cultural group, as these are important guiding principles of how they live their lives (Smith & Schwarts, 1997).

Bi-cultural Self


  • What is self-concept?

  • Contemporary theorist propose that individuals construct the self in some similar ways within a cultural group but differently across cultures (Marcus & Kitayama, 1991).

Recent research has identified two dimensions including independent self (individualistic) and interconnected self (collectivistic).

Bi-cultural Self

Self concept
Self concept





  • Individualistic Self-Concept

  • More Western-Anglo Orientation

  • Self more independent from other relationships




  • Collectivistic Self-Concept

  • More Eastern-Asian Orientation

  • Self is more interconnected from other relationships







Bi-cultural Self


  • Why look at language in cultural transmission?

  • Language is the vehicle for learning a culture;

  • Language creates an individuals cultural worldview (Triandis, 1972);

  • Language has a role in the acquisition of both the general knowledge and the cognitive skills of a cultural group (Vygotsky, 1978).

Bi-cultural Self


  • What is acculturation? Occurs when a cultural group comes into contact with another.

  • Evident at an individual level, when person acquires the language of the dominant culture and changes in values, beliefs, and cultural identity occur(Berry et al., 1992).

  • Assimilation occurs when individuals do not wish to maintain their cultural identity and seek daily interaction with the dominant-culture.

  • Integration occurs when there is both an interest to maintain the culture of origin while being open to interactions with the dominant-cultural group(Berry & Sam, 1997).

Bi-cultural Self

The bi lingual and bi cultural self
The Bi-lingual and Bi-cultural Self

Recently emerging interest in bi-lingualism and bi-culturalism due to immigration around the world.

Relevant to Australia and Mental Health Services due to migration waves entering the country as evidenced through emerging communities in our catchment areas.

Bi-cultural Self

Bi cultural self
Bi-cultural self

One definition relates bi-lingualism with both the level oflanguage competence and identificationwith thelanguage and their culture(Skutnabb-Kanaga (1984).

  • This definition allows room for possible shifts in individual’s cultural identity asdependent on the demands of the social situation.

  • In some studies, bi-lingual individuals have demonstrated the ability to feel (affect), behave (action), and think (cognition) differently depending on the language context(see Georgas & Kalatzi-Azizi, 1992; Hong et al., 2000)

Bi-cultural Self

Focus of current study
Focus of Current Study

Explore the link between (a)language retentionamongst second-generation migrants in Australia and their (b)context-dependent cultural identityand (c)self-concept.

  • Work/school contextandfamily homecontext were selected for an exploration of the context-specific identity and the self, as these two contexts representpublicandprivate domains of life for most people.

Bi-cultural Self


  • It was predicted that a correlation between Australian identity and the Heritage cultural identity would differ between the two groups.

  • Expected that those participants that have maintained the language of origin (LMG) and that are also proficient in English would show a more integrated strategy.

  • Expected that the LMG group would demonstrate additive identities compared to the Non-language maintenance group (NMG), who would show subtractive identities, as dependent on the social context.

Bi-cultural Self


2. If language indeed serves as a vehicle for cultural learning and maintenance, it seems possible that the LMG are expected to maintain their heritage culture more than the NMG.

  • Therefore the LMG are expected to show less assertiveness, especially at home.

  • Differences were expected between the two groups in their context-specific self-concepts, especially for the LMG at home where the language of origin is being spoken.

Bi-cultural Self

Qualitative and quantitative data
Qualitative and Quantitative Data

What Data was Analysed?


  • Face to face interview

  • Semi-structured interview exploring participants cultural membership and narrative themes



  • Swartz Person Profile Survey

  • 10 values understood universally included in this study are: Power, Achievement, Hedonism, Self-direction, Benevolence, Universalism, Traditionalism, Conformity, Security, Stimulation



  • Rosenberg’s Global Self-Esteem

  • How one feels about oneself

  • Cultural adaptation to host culture

Bi-cultural Self

Second generation migrants and the acculturation process


  • Brown’s Social Identification Measure

  • What cultural group one belongs as dependent on where/with whom one is?

Cultural ID

social context

  • Triandis’ idea of Individualistic-Collectivistic Scale

  • Measuring cognitive patterns in social context

  • Independent vs. interconnected self

  • Self and others motivational processes?



Bi-cultural Self

Sample of participants total of 49
Sample of Participants: Total of 49

  • Two groups classified based on percentage of language spoken with:

  • Parent

  • Siblings

  • Colleagues

  • Friends

  • Relatives

  • 23 Individuals in Language Maintenance Group (LMG) consisting of 47% of sample.

  • 10 males and 13 females

  • 26 Individuals in Non-Language Maintenance Group (NMG) consisting of 53% of sample

  • 11 males and 15 females

Bi-cultural Self


  • If Participants spoke with parents 20% or more classified in LMG, unless % with other group significantly lower.

  • 2 groups equivalent in:

  • Sex ratio

  • Heritage culture (Asian vs. European)

  • Distribution of country

  • Australian born

  • Overseas born

    But statistical analysis required adjustment for age

    (LMG average 29.9 and NMG 25.7)

Bi-cultural Self

Results showed complex picture
Results: Showed complex picture

  • Analyses revealed that the Ethnic and Australian ID were negatively correlated for the NMG, both in the work/school and the home context (subtractive)

  • Implies that if an individual strongly identifies with Australians, s/he would identify weakly with their ethnic group, and vice versa. This is because for NMG 2 identities go into opposite directions.

  • For NMG 2 identities are incompatible, hence one of the two identities is to be selected (subtracted) as dependent on the social context

Bi-cultural Self


  • For LMG, the 2 identities were independent both in the work/school and the home context.

  • Suggests that identifying with 1 cultural group does not determine a lower identification with another group;

  • LMG can strongly identify with Australian ID and at the same time strongly identify with Ethnic ID; and,

  • It seems that for LMG choosing between 2 identities is not an issue and these individuals are free to identify with either group in both private and public domains.

Bi-cultural Self


  • Did language maintenance predict cultural maintenance?

  • Semi-structured interview revealed that the LMG maintained their heritage culture more in depth than the NMG

  • Analysis of participants narratives highlighted 2 categories of cultural ID more prominently:

Knowledge of migration story of the family (e.g.parents hardships migration/resettlement); and,

Recognition that heritage culture maintained through language (e.g. being able to communicate with grandparents who do not speak English).

Bi-cultural Self


  • What about self-concept?

  • NMG assertiveness equivalent across private and public context; and

  • LMG more assertive at work/school than in the home context. These suggests:

NMG adopted self-concept widely shared among Australian population, being more assertive regardless of whether in private or public domains; and,

LMG is capable of adopting the individualistic value system when in public domain but shifting in private domain to more traditional self-concepts.

Bi-cultural Self


  • What about values?

  • Tranditionalism was statistically different bw 2 groups

What is Traditionalism? :(devout; humble)respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that traditional cultures or religions provide


“she thinks it is important to do things the way s/he learned from her family. She wants to follow their customs and traditions.”

Bi-cultural Self

Final comments
Final comments:

  • Language is linked with cultural identity

  • Language maintenance linked with Integration strategy

  • Non-language maintenance linked with Assimilation

  • LMG demonstrated a more independent cultural ID that is capable of shifting depending on the demands of the social environment

  • NMG showed a more contextually constrained ID

Bi-cultural Self

Final comments1
Final Comments:

  • NMG showed differences in self-construals that are similar to Australian ideologies, thus showing more levels of assertiveness than LMG both in private and public

  • Language tied with worldview of culture of origin in such areas as values and self-concepts, including Traditionalism, which embraces the maintenance of the heritage culture

  • Qualitative data was useful in proving an in-depth analysis between LMG and NMG differences in cultural ID, such as transmission of migration story and language linked with cultural knowledge

Bi-cultural Self

Implications for mental health workers
Implications for mental health workers:

  • Need to be aware when working with bi-lingual clients that this means they are bi-cultural and may experience shift of 2 CI as dependent on the social context;

  • Clients may present very different in their private selves (home) then in their public selves (clinic)

  • If language link to values and self-concepts it is important to assess client in own language of origin even if proficient in English, as may reveal more of their worldview; and

  • Assessment in language of origin may provide insight into explanatory mode of illness of own culture and private self not elicited during English Assessment

Bi-cultural Self

What to remember
What to remember?

  • If language is an important vehicle for how we view the world, then it can be assumed that bi-lingual individuals have integrated two worldviews

Food for thought:

What happens when a bi-lingual individual develops a mental illness?

Bi-cultural Self