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A qualitative exploration of the effect of age at migration on the acculturative processes of Filipino immigrants: Implications for public health studies

Background and significance. Acculturation is commonly used in public health studies to examine and explain differences in health behaviors and outcomes between racial and ethnic groups. Despite limitations, language preference, length of residence in the U.S., and nativity are typically used as indicators of acculturation. The purpose of this dissertation research was to explore the transition processes of recent Filipino immigrants via grounded theory and qualitative data collection methods to gain a better understanding of their pre and post migration experiences for future use in culture and health initiatives. Age at migration was a central point of comparison, with the underlying use of a life course perspective. Methods. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 24 Filipino immigrants who migrated 15 years ago or less. Data were collected on reasons for migration, expectations, post-migration experiences and perceptions, Filipino-influenced behaviors and beliefs, American cultural norms, contact with mainstream institutions, and several health-related domains. Findings. Immigrants described several factors related to ease of transitions, including prior knowledge of the U.S. and language skills as well as experiencing culture shock. These factors, in addition to reasons for migration, influenced the type and degree of exposure to mainstream institutions that resulted in further acclimation to the U.S. culture. Those that had higher levels of exposure to and encounters with institutions had more knowledge of American ways of life and appeared more integrated in the mainstream society. Further, while language, time since migration, and age at migration had secondary effects on post-migration experiences, they did not directly influence interviewee's integration to U.S. society. Immigrants' cultural values and beliefs were not replaced by those of the mainstream as is typically assumed via frameworks of acculturation. Further, the core cultural values that interviewees described like the importance of family and respect did not appear to diminish with increasing time since migration. Yet retaining these values also did not tend to hinder people's ability to acclimate to life in the U.S. Conclusion . Traditional acculturation theories and models that are commonly used in public health are not useful for understanding the migration experiences or cultural changes of Filipino immigrants. More effective frameworks would identify transition domains like language, knowledge, and skills and then examine changes to them. They would also focus on immigrants' contact with mainstream institutions and their ability at navigating through the new society. The Filipinos in this sample did not describe processes of being "more American" but rather the gaining of knowledge and skills needed to navigate the U.S. Public health efforts tailored to Filipino immigrants may be more effective if they incorporate knowledge on migration experiences, the notion of retaining core values and adopting traits needed to integrate to society, and specific values that have been identified to influence attitudes and behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved).

L.Cricel Molina
Molina, Lourdes Cricel: U California, Los Angeles, US
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