Acculturation: Living In A Different Country
Imagine living in a different country than what where you were born and grew up in. Now imagine if most people in that country spoke a different language and expected you to learn that language with little to no help. This can have a major toll on mental health and family structuring especially on a teenager whose life is already being faced with challenges. Being a teen in a recently immigrated family is very prevalent in today’s society, and with this life changing event comes negative side effects? In many recent studies it has been found that adolescents who are also immigrants have high chances of mental health and family dysfunctionality.
In Chapter 21 of the book “Pediatric Anxiety Disorders”, the researcher talk about ethnic and cultural considerations. As society becomes more culturally diverse, there is a growing awareness of the cultural influences on mental health. An individual’s culture can influence the meaning and expression of symptoms, this is important when it comes to the context of cultural concepts, which tend to be ethnic and cultural group specific. It discusses anxiety symptoms and disorders as well as individual and family factors that impact anxiety in youth. Culturally related factors such as social status, acculturation, and expectations as they relate to anxiety are also reviewed. Additionally, they talk about treatments that have been used with ethnic minority youth and practical recommendations that can be useful for practitioners and clinical researchers.
Studies have shown that along with other factors that affect adolescents’ mental health, acculturation is extremely relevant to adolescents who are recent migrants. Acculturation has been seen as just a process involving individuals to gradually adjust to a new environment. But during this process its extremely common for migrants to face psychological distress. This is brought on by the major life changes that come with moving countries. According to “Child Psychiatry and Human Development: Acculturation, Internalizing Mental Health Symptoms, and Self-Esteem: Cultural Experiences of Latino Adolescents”, acculturation has always been found to be associated with mental health in various types of immigrants.
Many migrant parents decide to immigrate to the U.S. to improve their families future. Unfortunately, once in the U.S., they are more than likely to face anti-immigrant attitudes and policies. These policies are known to hinder families negatively, which then affects the health and well-being of their family. There are very few studies that have investigated how parents think about acculturation and how it may impact the mental health of their adolescent children.
According to the “Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation”, nearly one in four children in the United States lives with at least one immigrant parent and in addition, many immigrant families experience hardships like less educational attainment, and limited English proficiency. These can be seen as barriers for them to access or benefit from existing mental health supports and services for children. This comes as parents try to put their children through schooling, where most classrooms are taught in full english and most assignments are expected to be written in english. You can only imagine how difficult it must be to be expected to change the way you learn instantly.
Studies on the mental health of immigrants have been consistent in demonstrating that first-generation adult immigrants have lower levels of identified psychopathology than the mainstream population and than their children (Escobar & Vega, 2000; Oquendo et al., 2001). In analyses of data from the Epidemiological Catchment Area study, less acculturated individuals were found to have a better mental health profile, individuals with moderate acculturation had medium levels of mental health, and more assimilated individuals had the worst mental health outcomes. Suicide was also less prevalent in the less acculturated group. The following hypotheses have been developed around these findings: 1. First-generation immigrants are naturally selected to be a more resilient group given their decision to emigrate against many odds, with the second-generation being ‘‘softer’’ and less resilient. 2. First-generation immigrants suppress their mental health needs in order to subsume them below their more basic and immediate needs for personal and material ⁄ economic security. Once the second-generation immigrants are more comfortably established, they can then pay attention to pent-up mental health needs. 3. The second-generation immigrants may identify more readily with the devalued and denigrated concepts of their ethnic identity, adopted from the xenophobic attitudes of the host culture, which may lead to ‘‘ethnic self-hate’’ and higher risk for psychopathology (Escobar & Vega, 2000). 4. Family support may be strained for immigrant youth because of acculturative family distancing. This relationship may be responsible in part for the higher risk of psychopathology
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