issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

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issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

Acculturation experience38of your mind… (Alma)ConclusionsImmigration and acculturation arecertainly challenging transitions in life.However, these experiences do notnecessarily need to translate into conflictiveand traumatic issues. Negative acculturationoutcomes take place if immigrants do notpossess the skills and opportunities toovercome the relocation and acculturationchallenges, and if the receiving society isnot prepared to support and integrateminority members into its social,educational, labour and politicalenvironments. The main findings of thisresearch indicate that many of the issues andconflicts encountered by this group of 13Latin American immigrant women, after anaverage of 32 years in Australia, remainedunresolved and emotionally challenging.Findings showed not only thatacculturation represented a continuousprocess for immigrants – not just anoutcome – but also that it should be betterunderstood as a two (rather than one)dimensional process rather than just one.According to Ward (1997; Ward &Kennedy, 1993), Berry’s acculturationmodel should be distinguished into twoseparate domains: psychological(individuals’ levels of mental health,psychological wellbeing and personalsatisfaction in the new country) and socioculturaladaptation (connected to a sociallearning framework, refers to the acquisitionof adequate social skills and behaviours tosuccessfully adapt to daily routines in thenew environment). Ward (1996, 1997) madethe distinction between acculturationprocesses and the different strategiesimmigrants follow is not clear in mostresearch on acculturation and needs furtherinvestigation. This research’s participantspresented low levels of both, socio-culturaland psychological adaptation.Due to the specific challengesencountered in Australia and theircompounding effects, many factors necessaryfor a positive integration remained unresolvedfor these women. Limited language knowledgeskills, lack of social and family support, andrestricted childcare services often translated intoa handicap for women’s integration toAustralia. As a result, many women not onlyremained trapped within unskilled or semiskilledservices, interacting mainly with otherimmigrants in similar conditions, but also didnot have the resources to deal with theemotional consequences of those conflictiveissues. As a consequence of not being able tointegrate into other labour and socio-culturalenvironments, participants suffered restrictedlevels of personal satisfaction with their lives asmembers of a new society. The Latin Americanwomen interviewed in this study learnt to adjustthemselves to life conditions in Australia, butthe limitations experienced while exchangingwith the broader community remained mostlyunsettled. Alma’s narrative: “I’m here and Icry, I’m there and I cry…it’s something that youcan’t get out of your mind” is a way toexemplify this phenomenon. To most of them,acculturation represented a process and adifficult emotional transition that continues toconfront them. Thirty-two years later,participants still felt that being an immigrantwoman in Australia was a never-endingexperience, mostly associated with its demandsand the unavailable resources to find a positivepsychological and practical resolution. AsLaura described, the idea of moving toAustralia was part of an adventure, but one forwhich she paid a high personal and emotionalprice. The experience “still goes on”, as sheexplained while breaking into tears.Another finding is directly connected tothe legacy of the White Australia policy and theassimilation ideals and its impact on theexpectations held by members of themainstream society towards immigrants.Although Australia has officially embraced theideology of multiculturalism, seeking theintegration of immigrants from all ethnicbackgrounds, participants experience a differentThe Australian Community Psychologist Volume 20 No 2 December 2008

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