This theory will be utilized as a starting point for an investigation of the three types of adaptation into Sudan systems by refugees, as well as to provide insight into the elements that influence refugees' ability to cope in schools in this area of the world.

Acculturation Theory Of Immigrants’ Assimilation, Integration, And Adaptation.

Acculturation Theory Of Immigrants’ Assimilation, Integration, And Adaptation.

Berry, Pootinga, Segall, and Dasen (2003) define acculturation as a change in an individual or a culturally similar group that results from contact with a different culture; they make a distinction between psychological and sociological acculturation.

At the psychological/individual level, changes can occur in one’s sense of identity, values, and beliefs; people may experience acculturation stress such as anxiety and depression as they try to adapt to a new culture.

At a group level, changes affect social structures economic factors, and political activities.  Portes and Zhou’s (1993) theory of segmented assimilation, which considers the diversity of situations and patterns of acculturation and integration into a new culture, provided the theoretical framework for examining the patterns of acculturation and integration exhibited by the refugees in South Sudan. 

Portes and Zhou (1993) theory of “segmented assimilation.” asserts that the United States is a stratified and unequal society and that different “segments” of society are available to which immigrants may assimilate.

Portes and Zhou delineate three possible paths of assimilation that immigrants may take. The first is essentially what is predicted by classical assimilation theory, i.e. increasing acculturation and integration into the American middle class (for brevity, referred to henceforward as Path 1).

The second is acculturation and assimilation into the urban underclass, leading to poverty and downward mobility (Path 2). The third, “selective acculturation” (Portes and Rumbaut, 2001:54), is the deliberate preservation of the immigrant community’s culture and values, accompanied by economic integration (Path 3) (Rumbaut, 1994; Portes and Zhou, 1993; Zhou, 1997a).

The theory emphasizes that there is more than one way of “becoming American,” and that Americanization is not necessarily beneficial (Bankston and Zhou, 1997; Zhou, 1997a).

Portes and Rumbaut (2001) further expand segmented assimilation theory by specifying the factors that influence these disparate outcomes. They identify human capital, modes of incorporation into the host society, and family structure as the relevant background factors that shape the experience of the first generation.

These, in turn, affect the relationship between the type of acculturation experienced by immigrant parents and the type experienced by their children. Portes and Rumbaut view this relationship as central to the outcomes of the second generation.

When parents and children acculturate at a similar pace and in similar ways, this is considered consonant acculturation (if both either move smoothly into American culture or remain unacculturated) or selective acculturation (if both agree on limited acculturation).

When children acculturate faster or more completely than parents, this is considered dissonant acculturation. According to Portes and Rumbaut, this last type of acculturation leads to parent-child conflict and a breakdown in communication between the generations. Because it diminishes parents’ ability to guide and support their children, they see dissonant acculturation as a major risk factor for downward assimilation among the second generation.

Thus, the relationship between parents and children’s acculturation is considered important in refugee study because it influences the family and community resources available to support children, who confront numerous challenges in adapting to life in the host society.

Some of these challenges are posed by the communities that receive present-day immigrants. The continuing tendency of immigrant/refugee families to settle in poor, inner-city neighborhoods means that immigrant children frequently must attend poorly performing, underfunded, and highly segregated inner-city schools (Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco, 2001; Waldinger, 2001).

The environment they encounter in such schools is thought to put adolescents at higher risk of acculturating into the “oppositional youth culture” or “adversarial outlooks” found among their native minority peers (Hirschman, 2001; Portes and Rumbaut, 2001; Zhou, 1997a; Portes and Zhou, 1993)1. This culture discourages school engagement and therefore is seen as harming adolescents’ chances at upward mobility.

Under these circumstances, the segmented assimilation framework asserts that maintaining the culture of origin can have a protective effect on immigrant children. The immigrant community may be able to reinforce the achievement-related and behavioral norms that parents try to teach their children and thus help adolescents avoid the pitfalls of poor neighborhoods.

If adolescents assimilate too fully into the surrounding social environment, however, they may experience dissonant acculturation and lose access to the social and cultural resources of the ethnic community. Therefore, the segmented assimilation framework would predict that in disadvantaged contexts, the third path of assimilation (that of limited or lagged acculturation accompanied by economic assimilation) would be most beneficial.

Segmented assimilation theory is a broad perspective, encompassing many interrelated components pertaining to the experiences and outcomes of the new immigrants and their children.

The theory explicitly considers both the process and the outcomes of assimilation. Path 3 is distinguished from Paths 1 and 2 by process, specifically whether assimilation has been partial or complete. Paths 1 and 2, which are both forms of complete assimilation, can be differentiated from each other only by divergent outcomes i.e. upward versus downward mobility.

Three major and potentially interrelated dimensions differentiate assimilation experiences in the literature on segmented assimilation. First, some scholars have argued that assimilation outcomes may differ by immigrants’ characteristics such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), social capital, family cohesion, and perhaps gender (Farley and Alba, 2002; Hirschman, 2001; Nagasawa, Qian, and Wong, 2001; Portes and Rumbaut, 2001; Rong and Brown, 2001; St-Hilaire, 2003; Waldinger and Feliciano, 2004).

It is argued that immigrant groups with relatively good resources (i.e., physical, cultural, and/or social capital) are able to follow the traditional assimilation path (Path 1) without too much trouble, whereas those lacking such resources are at risk of experiencing downward assimilation.

Second, assimilation outcomes may differ by the characteristics of natives to whom immigrants assimilate (Gans, 1992; Rumbaut, 1994, 1997; Bankston and Zhou, 1997). If immigrants assimilate to middle-class, white natives, the assimilation is straight-line (Path 1). If immigrants assimilate to inner city, underclass minorities struggling with poverty, crime, and joblessness, the assimilation is downward (Path 2).

Third, assimilation outcomes may depend on whether assimilation is “wholesale” or selective, with the implication that limited assimilation is beneficial (Bankston and Zhou, 1995; Portes and Rumbaut, 2001; Portes and DeWind, 2004; Portes and Schauffler, 1996). The notion of selective acculturation is perhaps the most common interpretation of segmented assimilation theory.

Indeed, Hartmann and Gerteis (2005) even go so far as to attribute to segmented assimilation theory a radical version of multiculturalism – “fragmented pluralism” – which views individuals as bounded primarily by self-contained cultural groups rather than integrated into a larger society.

Extending their earlier work, Portes and Rumbaut (2001) posited three contextual factors on which segmented assimilation patterns are dependent: (a) the pace at which children and parents acculturate, (b) cultural and economic barriers confronted by immigrants and (c) resources (family and community) available to manage the barriers.

 Stein (1979) proposed that occupational and economic adjustment is crucial to adult refugees’ acculturation in a new country, as much educational success is essential for refugee children’s acculturation.

The sociology of immigration recognizes that outcomes for immigrant minorities (including refugee immigrants) are significantly influenced by what Portes and Rumbaut (1990) call a group’s mode of incorporation, that is, the context in which immigrants enter, plays a decisive role in their process of adaptation, regardless of the human capital the immigrants may possess.

Thus immigrants who receive settlement assistance and are not subject to widespread discrimination are expected to experience a smoother process of social and psychological integration and faster economic progress.

Ogbu (1982) explained that adapting to a new culture is also affected by whether one was a voluntary immigrant or an involuntary immigrant (such as a slave). Ogbu placed refugees in a middle category, describing them as semi-voluntary immigrants.

He claimed that voluntary immigrants view learning the language and ways of the dominant culture as desirable avenues to success, whereas people with an oppositional cultural frame of reference (such as colonized or enslaved people) view conformity as “a symbol of disaffiliation” with their own culture.

Thus members of the oppositional culture are more likely to reject the host culture, viewing separation and self-segregation as desirable goals. Similarities between one’s original culture and that of the new culture may facilitate the acculturation process and may minimize acculturative stress, whereas dissimilarities between cultures may impede acculturation and increase acculturative stress (Gopaul-McNoil & Thomas-Presswood, 1998; Kopala & Esquievel, 1994).

Gibson (1998) added that voluntary immigrants, in contrast, tend to choose an additive acculturation strategy, in which they acquire new cultural tools without rejecting their native knowledge and skills. Gibson termed this strategy “accommodation and acculturation without assimilation”, in which the individual can draw from more than one culture to accommodate a given social context.

People acculturate at different rates based upon their personal experiences, exposure to, length of time in, and interaction with the new culture. Moreover, variables such as age, language proficiency, socioeconomic status, education, family structure, and social support may impede or facilitate the transition through the acculturation process (Miranda & Umhoefer, 1998; Thomas, 1992).

How can this theory be relevant to Educational Perspective?

This theory will be utilized as a starting point for an investigation of the three types of adaptation to Sudan systems by refugees, as well as to provide insight into the elements that influence refugees’ ability to cope in schools in this area of the world.

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