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Exploring the context sensitivity of acculturation: A qualitative study of the Latina acculturative experience

26 July 2002


The need for increased awareness and understanding of the acculturation process is highlighted by recent and predicted increases of ethnic and racial minorities in the United States, especially including Latinos. Despite the substantial body of literature addressing the topic of acculturation, few theories, models, or measures of acculturation capture the complexity of the process. Furthermore, the role of context is not adequately addressed or integrated with the acculturation framework. The Latina acculturative experience served as a template for exploring the complexity involved in the acculturation process" including specifically the role of context. Using a qualitative, phenomenological design, 10 Latina participants of Caribbean backgrounds who received similar scores on the Bidimensional Acculturation Scale were interviewed with regard to their experiences in several life areas. There were three areas of focus in the current study: (1) The themes of acculturation that were identified in the interviews; (2) whether degree of acculturation varies by and/or within a situation or is better accounted for by a summative score across contexts; and (3) whether there are themes that pertain primarily to the context of gender, and specifically to being a woman in the Hispanic community. The findings suggest that the process of acculturation is indeed complex and involves both contextual and linear processes. Contextual variations are highlighted as an important aspect of the acculturative experiences of Latin as, and it is suggested that these findings have implications for individuals from other acculturating groups. The current study supports the integral role of context within the process of acculturation, including those experiences that were specific to being female in the Hispanic community. Findings emphasize the need for a new framework of acculturation that integrates a variety of contextual variables, especially including gender. The call for a new, context sensitive acculturation framework is discussed in terms of its relevance for providing culturally competent services to acculturating individuals, including Latinas.


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