Immigration, Acculturation and Adjustment

What is Acculturation?

Sam (2006) reports that Acculturation was first described in antiquity (by Plato) and in the modern world by Powel (1880; 1883)
who described it as the "psychological changes induced by cross-cultural imitation."

McGee (1898) from an anthropological perspective describes it as a
"process of exchange and mutual improvement by which societies advance from
savagery, to barbarism, and to enlightenment"
(cited in Sam, 2006, p. 13).

Simons (1901) from a sociological perspective describes it as a two-way process of reciprocal accommodation
where acculturation is seen to be equivalent with assimilation.

Rudmin (2003a,b) cites G. Stanley Hall (1904) as the first psychologist to address acculturation,
however it is the Redfield, Linton and Herskovits (1936) definition that has persisted throughout the last century:

all "those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures
      come into continuous first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original cultural
     patterns of either or both groups.
" (p. 149).


Linton et al. describe it largely as a group phenomenon where Broom & Kitsue (1955) Devereaux & Loeb (1943) describe it as an individual level phenomenon.


Psychological acculturation was clearly described by Graves (1967) and Berry in his various models (1980, 1990, 1997)


Contact has been examined in various forms from temporary to continuous as well as voluntary and involuntary types.


Change has been examined as a process and an outcome including acculturation as:

Biological – disease resistance
Political – immigration policies
Economical – foreign workers
Social – discrimination & prejudice
Cultural – changes in behaviour, values, identity etc.


Major issues in acculturation research include:

Directionality and Dimensionality

Directionality – of changes made


Unidirectional where new comers are expected to change (assimilate) to the mainstream group (Gordon, 1964; Graves, 1967)


Bi-Directional where both (all) groups are expected to adjust and adapt (Tat, 1977; Teske & Nelso, 1974)


Dimensionality include aspects of change

Unidimensional – Lose old identity for a new one.

Bidimensional – add or subtract both (all) cultures for individual


LaFramboise (1993) and Gordon (1964) describe the seven stages of assimilation as a linear and progressive set of changes, sometimes leading to segmental assimilation.

1. cultural or behavioural
2. structural 
3. marital
4. attitudinal reciprocal
5. behavioural reciprocal
6. civic
7. identificational


 (Fig 2.1)


Related Concepts include:

Interculturation – similar to acculturation but in the French Literature.


Globalization – homogenization of cultures through trade, immigration and information exchange


Multiculturalism – political ideology about how ethnic groups in society live together and maintain ethnic and cultural distinctiveness.


Ethnic Identity – one form of cultural identity – how individuals and groups define and make sense of themselves.  Acculturation or experience with other cultures often heightens awareness and sense of identity.


Limitations and challenges

Does it require face to face contact? In what ways can face to face interaction improve or disrupt acculturation and other issues (like prejudice).


What about Information Technologies and Internet contact?

 Online gaming and social media?

Questions and controversy remain today over the nature of acculturation and the methods for best understanding it. Rudmin (2003)offers a critical history of the concept of acculturation.

Brief Background to Immigration and acculturation in Canada

Diversity from the beginning . . .

Burnet (1981) notes, at the time of Cabot's landing
- 50 distinct societies and about 12 major linguistic groups,
each a "nation" on its own made up Canada.

       Peoples  Languages Dialects  Coastal

Viking, Spanish, French, English and North Asian immigrants arrived!

Pre and post-confederation disputes among the three founding peoples

pre-confederation days - primary disputes were among
various native groups, the French, and the English.

Early Canadiens were largely accepted by the Natives.

After confederation and through the 1960's the standard policy
was for assimilation into the dominant English and French groups
for all other peoples, including the native groups.

-Many Chinese Immigrants accepted to build the
Canadian Pacific Railway, having to pay a head tax to enter Canada.

Residential Schools established and native cultures
were stripped away having no opportunity to pass on languages
and traditions (natural medicine, art work, spiritual beliefs and
practices, folklore, mythology, rituals, including potlach.

Recently the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission has heard from many survivors and has accounted for the truth, working on the reconcilliation.

Komagata Maru incident (1915) Sikh immigrants denied
landing rights as "rules" were changed to keep them out.
Tragic murder and jailing.

1940-1945 Many British Columbia Japanese Canadians
(Citizens) were inturned to live in concentration camps
in the B.C. interior (Kamloops region)

1963 Following nearly a century of the recognition of
(French-English) cultural dualism, the Canadian Government
created a Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
to report on the state of national unity and identity

1966 and 1967 the federal government also commissioned
the Hawthorne-Tremblay report on Natives.

In 1969 the Official Languages Act was passed, recognizing
French and English as the two official languages of Canada.
This policy was expected to moderate the growing tension
between the "two founding peoples" of Canada.

-Other cultural groups, notably the natives of Canada,
spoke out for their own recognition, challenging this bi-cultural framework.


        The adoption of a policy of muilticulturalism

October 8, 1971, Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau
introduced the Canadian policy of "Multiculturalism within
a Bilingual Framework". This policy was designed to produce
a solution to the ongoing fighting between English and French
advocates in politics and government.

Berry (1984) suggests that this policy was adopted to produce
a distinct Canadian identity through:

1) support for the maintenance of cultural traditions,
2) the fostering of positive inter-group contact,
3) the development of tolerance for diversity amongst Canada's
various cultural groups, and
4) the learning of the two official languages. It was the design
of the policy to foster contact among groups in order to:

. . . break down discriminatory attitudes and cultural jealousies
[where] National Unity, if it is to mean anything in the deeply
personal sense, must be founded on confidence in one's own individual identity; out of this can grow respect for that of others and a willingness to share attitudes and assumptions. . . . and so contribute to a richer life for all. (Trudeau cited in Berry, 1984, p.354).

Berry et al (1992) review three approaches to attitudes toward acculturation

 that may arise, each of which directs the researcher to a different target.
[Figure 11-1 : ]

Berry himself has focused primarily on attitudes towards two of the  principal elements of the Multiculturalism policy,

1) maintenance of traditions and
2) interest in positive contact with other groups

four distinct styles of strategies emerged.

Berry's Scheme of Acculturative Attitude Styles (Berry, 1997)

Is it considered to be of value to maintain
cultural identity and characteristics?




Is it considered
to be of value to maintain




relationships with
other (host) groups





Integrative approach suggests the synthesis of various facets  of identity that one finds in each of the two (or more) traditions,  often into a novel style of living through these traditions.

is most desired by the "multicultural assumption" of maintenance and
contact leading to a positive identity and tolerance of others (Berry 1984, 1997)

Separation occurs when there is a group that is in an inferior position
of power desires to maintain traditions and not have contact.

In contrast Segregation occurs when the group's relative dominance
(in terms of social and economic systems) is that of a superior position.

Essentially involves the maintenance of traditional cultural behavioural patterns, values and identities without the acceptance of the behaviours, values or identities of others.

Assimilation occurs when there is a desire to adopt the 'host' traditions and practices while relinquishing one's own.

Assimilation refers to the classic "melting-pot" outcome of acculturation whereby groups and individuals forego  the maintenance of their traditional ethno-cultural heritages and take on the cultural ways of the host society.

Official Canadian policy prior to the 1971 introduction of the Policy on Multiculturalism, and it continues to be the  'Official Policy' of the United States.


"is difficult to define precisely, possibly because it is  accompanied by a good deal of collective and individual confusion and anxiety.

It is characterised by striking out  against the larger society and by feelings of alienation,  loss of identity, and what has been termed acculturative stress." (1989, p. 4, emphasis original)

Early work on "multicultural ideology" shows "Deculturation", as a style that appears largely to be equivalent to Marginalisation (Berry, Kalin & Taylor, 1977).

Deculturation was defined by Berry (1984) as a pattern that  "occurs when a group's culture is not maintained and when there is no participation in the affairs of the dominant group" (p. 357).

Tonks (1990) suggests that a similar strategy may be present involving a loss of concern with ethnicity and culture per se, where Deculturation can be also be differentiated from Marginalisation
as a style that does not involve an element of "acculturative stress".

This study revealed a positive correlation with  Assimilation (r = .364), Marginalisation (r = .324), and
a negative correlation with Integration (r = -.277) and Separation (r = - .143) 
this attitude accompanies individuals who "opt-out" from having any traditional cultural ties
with associated practices and beliefs while not falling prey to an "acute crisis" characterised by stress.

Acculturation, Adaptation and Acculturative Stress

Acculturative Stress has been characterised as: one form of stress that is due to challenges in the process of acculturation. It has been observed as: "a particular set of stress behaviours . . . lowered mental health status (especially anxiety, depression), feelings of marginality and alienation, heightened psychosomatic symptom level, and identity confusion." (Berry et al., 1992, p. 284).

Acculturative Stress has been related to acculturative attitudes, phases of acculturation, nature of the larger society, characteristics of the acculturating group and individual.

Relationships between acculturation and stress[ Figure 11-4 ]

Mode: Integration, Assimilation, Separation, Marginalisation

Acculturative strategies have been examined along with:
acculturative stress, passive and active coping, psychopathology, age of beginning of acculturation, gender, education, and place  in the economic world (Berry, Kim, Power, Young & Bujaki, 1989; Berry, 1997).

Integration almost universally demonstrates a "substantial relationship with positive adaptation" (1997, p. 24). . . and . . . "integration seems to be the most effective strategy if we take long term health and well-being as indicators"  (Schmitz cited in Berry, 1997, p. 25).

"Social support" or having "supportive relationship with both cultures" and "links to one's heritage are associated with lower stress." (Berry, 1997, p. 25).

Higher levels of education have also been associated with lower levels of stress (Berry, 1997).

However, departure status is often higher than entry status which means the professionals often cannot work in their field following migration and have to either retrain or take on a lower status job (Berry, 2006).

Phinney, Chavira, and Williamson (1992) have reported that Integration was positively correlated with self-esteem in all groups (Hispanics, Blacks and Asians), while Assimilation correlated negatively with self-esteem in all groups except for whites.

Marginalisation consistently is found to be least successful in positive adaptation (Berry, 1997; Sam & Berry, 1996). The Marginalised person or community is shut off or cut out of both traditions, having few or no connections for the development of positive social support and recognition.

Phase: Contact, Conflict, Crisis, Adaptation  (including behavioural change) Fig 11-3 also gives rise to the U and W models of adjustment.

Nature of Larger Society: Multicultural vs. Assimilationist, ...

Group Characteristics: Age, Status, Social Support, Institutions

Individual Characteristics: Appraisal, Coping, Attitudes (Locus of Control), Contact...

Appraisal of the acculturative experience will have an impact on experiences along with coping methods which can affect ones attitudes, behaviour and experience.

Primary Appraisals are those cognitions that determine whether a stimulus is irrelevant, benign-positive or stressful. This appraisal may determine that the stimulus is of no concern of that it is a challenge or a threat that is likely to lead to harm or loss.  

Secondary appraisals involve one's evaluation of one's ability to cope or respond to the stressor. This may involve consideration of options and possible outcomes, a sense of efficacy and skill, as well as one's ability to control or manipulate a situation. 

Reappraisals involve the re-evaluation of primary or secondary appraisals where similar or different result may arise.  Defensive reappraisal may arise when one alters a previous appraisal as less threatening or more positive. 

Coping can be active or passive and can be emotion focused or problem focused.

Problem-focused coping involves the redefinition of a situation or alternatives.  This may be proactive, targeting the stressor and attempting to eliminate it before it has an impact. It may also involve combative coping where the adjustment is made to reduce the stressor or its effects after it has had an impact. 


Emotion-Focused coping involves an attempt to reduce emotional distress through controlling the event or reinterpreting the meaning of the stressor.


Acculturative Stress has also been studied extensively for many different groups

Sedentary or Migrant

Nomadic peoples who are forced into acculturation and settlement are most strongly affected  [Figure 12-1 kinds of groups in plural societies]

Voluntariness of Contact and Acculturative Stress

voluntary people (immigrants, sojourners and ethnic groups) are less likely to be stressed than involuntary people (natives and refugees).

Berry, Kim, Minde, & Mok (1987) report results from numerous studies on acculturative stress.

Immigrants: Koreans in Toronto had a mean stress score = 3.08

Refugees: Vietnamese in Kingston, mean stress score = 5.61

Malaysian in Kingston, mean stress score = 6.08
Chinese students, Queens University, means stress score = 3.42

Native Peoples:
Cree - Three different groups ranging from 6.43 & 6.81 to 7.03
Ojibway - Three groups ranging from 3.94 to 5.07 & 6.00
Carrier - Two groups ranging from 5.20 to 5.71
Tsimshiam - Two groups Ranging from 4.07 to 5.08

Ethnic Groups:
Angloceltics in Westport Ontario, mean stress score = 1.79
Mixed group from Sioux Lookout mean stress score = 2.95
Mixed group of students from Queens U. mean score = 3.03

Many other studies have since been performed using variations on the Berry Scale as well as the Cawte stress indicator (which is a short form derived from the Cornell medical Index).

Tonks has developed a bio-psycho-social health index to examine stress and positive adjustment in this study with international students (Wu, Tonks &Sorokina, 2014) BPSHr2 Sorokina, Tonks &Puzanov (2016)

Reacculturative transitions can create more stressful because it is not expected and long-term outcomes of exposure to cultural differences take time to integrate into a person’s life once home (Adler, 1981; Sussman 2001). There are many factors that can affect cultural transitions and acculturative stress to and from a culture.

After acknowledging the contribution of the U and W-curve adaptation models offered by many (Adler, 1981; Berry, 1999; Ward 1996) to explain identity shifts in re-acculturation.

These authors observe these models focus on culture shock, adaptation to foreign environments, with more recent models focused on cultural identity (Sussman, 2001), third-culture building (TCB) (Casmir, 1999) and multiculturalism (Adler, 1982).

These models are based on research with diplomats, multinational workers, refugees, exchange students, tourists, and Peace Corps volunteers.

Studying people who maintain more than one home around the world, these researchers suggest five types of identity effects from multiple re-acculturation.

These include: (a) mindfulness and identity shifting, (b) multicultural personhood, (c) community builder, (d) networks upon reentry, and (e) I-other dialectics.

This approach expands the exploration of identity shifts from an individual cultural perspective to a more collective (i.e., community) perspective. 

Expatiration and Repatriation bring many gifts to a person’s development, identity, work and home life. These cultural transitions can also create periods of stress.


Berry's methods of assessing acculturation involve Likert scales of attitudes regarding various domains (i.e. CAAS).    

Criticism has been raised against these methods.

  Rudmin (2006)........Integration & Acculturative stress......statistical / psychometric critique.

Rudmin (2003) Debate in Science: The Case of Acculturation. Applied Psychology: An international Review

Vancouver Index of Acculturation mathematically calculates the acculturative orientations based upon two scales: heritage & mainstream

Yampolsky (2009) presents a computer based qualitative assessment tool.

  Other models of acculturation have been proposed: Ward et al (2001) suggest that a culture-learning approach is best.

Others (See Tonks below) introduce a qualitative approach to addressing the varieties of acculturative experience.  Immigrant Identity Interview based upon the work of James Marcia and Erik Erikson.


For Erikson, normative identity development occurs when moving from adolescence to adulthood which  involves a transformation of identity marked by fidelity to an ideology,  a tradition, a mythology that will be the source of their identity.

 For Marcia this can be brought down to one of four styles of ego-identity. ..

Is there exploration and or commitment to an identity alternative? Four possibilities:
















Research on Acculturation and Cultural identity

Jean Phinney (Phinney, Berry, Vedder & Liebkind, 2006) studies
youth identity and acculturation through her work Ethnic Identity Development.

Acculturation and Cultural identity

Unidimensional  Gordon (1964)

Bi-dimensional (Berry 1974, 1980) Ryder et al. (2000)

Multiculturalism gives rise to expectations of acculturation  Fig4.1

Cultural Identity

Tajfel & Turner (1986) describe cultural and social identity as our identifications with social groups (icons, activities, values, ideologies. Phinney (1990) describes social identity as arising from our need for distinctiveness along with ethnic and national identities.

Ethnic Identity involves changes through developmental process and interaction with parents and peers.

Involves a degree of belongingness and attachment to groups (Phinney, 1992).


Using the Multi-group Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) Phinney has found that
ethnic minorities tend to score higher on Ethnic Identity than do majorities.


See readings for more detail on specific groups

Tonks' research on Acculturation, Identity and Acculturative stress

Tonks (1990) sample mixed group of Indo-Canadians comprised of:
Sikhs, Ismallis, Hindus, and Figians - mean stress score = 3.28

Indo-Canadian subgroups ranging from 2.38 to 4.33.

Although no overall gender differences found for stress,  Princess Margaret Secondary students mean stress score  for girls = 3.90 and for boys = 3.69

Gender Differences were found in acculturation where  males preferred Separation (p=.000), Deculutration (p=.003) and Marginalisation (p=.008) and females preferred Integration (p=.002).

 Tonks (1998) A Study on Acculturation and Ethnic Identity,
drawing from James Marcia's adaptation of  Erik Erikson's work on identity crisis in youth.

Marcia's Ego-Identity StatusInterview is a tool for assessing one's identity status (style) according to the above framework. This operates across various domains, such as occupation, religion, gender roles, politics, and sexual relations.


Tonks (1998) has extended this to the domain of ethnicity and culture, specifically for immigrant youth revealing

Quantitative Results: drawing from a cross-cultural perspective CAAS
Found Acculturative styles to vary across people of different 'Ethnicity"


Tonks & Paranjpe (2000) have examined Acculutration among immigrant youth along with Lowe,Tonks & Shah (2016) who have examined ego-identity and acculturation following Tonks' (1998) Qualitative Narratives of Identity. A number of Case Studies were developed drawing from a cultural perspective, for: Sarah Catherine Jennie Johnny - Common themes played out in individual styles


Tonks has been involved in a number of studies examining acculturative stress beginning with supervising
Bates (1998): where no significant difference was found between International students and Canadian students
on self reports of stress. Gender differences found where:
Males averaged 5.4 while Females averaged 2.9 on scale from 0-20.

A further detailed study of acculturative stress (Tonks et al., 2000) was performed to examine the measures used for international students and immigrant youth. Based upon this study, Tonks has further refined the development of the bio-psycho-social health index to examine stress and positive adjustment: Tonks (2014) used this measure with Iinternational and Canadian students (Wu, Tonks &Sorokina, 2014) and has further enlgared the sample for more detailed results Sorokina, Tonks &Puzanov (2016). Tonks et al (in preparation) are working on a factor analysis of the BPSHr2.

Qualitative studies of have shown Adjustment or Adaptation as the opposite  of acculturative stress existing on a continuum as possible outcomes of acculturative experiences such as Tonks & Paranjpe (2000) along with Lowe,Tonks & Shah (2016) and Tonks, Shah & Lowe (2021).

Tonks (2006) Acculturative Stress among Canadian sojourners in Cuba. Tonks (2011) examined various aspects of acculturative change for the local (indigenous and immigrant) populations as well as sojourners (tourists and travellers) in the Yucatan Region of Mexico.  Other accounts are found in literature such as Miriam Toews - A Complicated kindness and the film Bend it Like Beckham