Topic 7:
Acculturation and Transitions

What is Acculturation?

Acculturation has been described by  Redfield, Linton and Herskovits (1936) as:
"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. (Sam 2006, Fig 2.1)

Psychological acculturation was clearly described by Graves (1967) and Berry in his various models (1974, 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

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



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.

Integration 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.


"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).


What are different cultural transitions?

Many people have been undergoing cultural transitions for centuries.

Over the years it has been noted that cultural transitions of tourists/travellers are different than those of professionals, students, and volunteers working in foreign cultures (Black, 1992; Harvey 1997). This is due to the aspect of having to communicate, work, and live within a different culture than that of oneself (Black, 1992).

There are also differences noted between people who make cultural shifts for permanent reasons (i.e., immigration – emigration) and those who do so for shorter periods of time  eight weeks to a few years).  Hence, acculturative transition to foreign cultures by individuals has been studied by many different disciplines – anthropology, business, education, religion, and psychology to name a few.

Most research has focused on transition to foreign culture – cultural adaptation – (by an individual, with considerably less time spent focusing on transitions back to home cultures. This transition of can be termed Expatriation (Oberg, 1960).


(adjustment to foreign culture) – theories include U, W- shaped adjustment curves, and Berry’s (1984)  work. How one experiences this transition affects transition back home again. For example. integration as a means of cultural adaption is associated with easier transitions back home again (Sussman, 2001).

Adult development research shows that adults move through transitions – perceived changes (gains and losses) best when the change/transition goes as expected (Schlossberg, 1985, 2005; Sussman, 2002).

Acculturative stresses are sometimes handled better because they are expected (as they are with expatriation). Adults expect change and the unknown when exploring other cultures.

Adjustment to home culture environment  became to be termed repatriation by Oberg in 1960. 

Increase in the number of professionals – students- volunteers -  experiencing repatriation having a signitifcant impact on people’s lives.

Majority of the research focuses on expatriation and is quantitative for organizational/management

(Baruch & Altman, 2002; Jasinskaja-Lahti, Liebkind, Horencyck, & Scmitz, 2003; Suutari, & Brewster, 2003; Sussman, 2001; Yan, Gorong, & Douglas, 2002)

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.

Onwumechili et al (2003) examine the application of several theoretical frames of reference to explain cultural identity that acknowledges the U and W-curve adaptation models (Adler, 1981; Berry, 1999; Ward 1996).

This explains: identity shifts in re-acculturation and focuses on culture shock, adaptation to foreign environments, and 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.


Cultural Transitions and 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.

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).

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, 1995). 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.

Berry et al. identify the phase of acculturation as having a greater or lesser adaptation through: Contact, Conflict, Crisis, Adaptation 

Martin & Nakayama present Storti's (2001) 'W'-curve theory that suggests that sojourners undergo a double round of acculturative rollercoasting, first adjusting to the visited culture 'U' and again upon returning home 'U'.  Hence the emotional ride there and back goes up with excitement and down with depression twice through the whole cycle.

Nature of Larger Society will also have a significant impact on the acculturative experiences of the migrant or sojourner.  Multicultural societies tend to promote cultural diversity and exhibit more tolerance than Assimilationist societies which expect, or demand, conformity

Personal and group characteristics will also have an impact on accultrative adaptation such as: Age, Status, Social Support, and Institutions present.

Experience or learning to respond to stress provides people with skills such as:
 Appraisal and Coping coping strategies.  Appraise the acculturative experience and coping methods can affect ones attitudes, contact, behaviour and experience.  

Acculturative Stress has also been studied extensively for many different groups

Sedentary or Migrant, where Nomadic peoples who are forced into acculturation and settlement are most strongly affected


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; Sorokina, Tonks & Puzanov, 2016) BPSHr2

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


The Social Science Approach

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

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



The Interpretive Approach

Qualitative Narratives of Identity: Case Studies drawing from a cultural perspective.
Sarah Catherine Jennie Johnny - Common themes played out in individual styles


2004 - Camosun College International Field School in Cuba
Students taking Psyc 257 - Intercultural Communication and International Studies 180