Question – Differentiate between acculturation and assimilation.
■ Acculturation Themes
Several factors, also links on the chain, are relevant to the overall experience of acculturation. Acculturation is the broad term used to describe the process of adapting to and becoming absorbed into the dominant social culture. The overall process of acculturation into a new society is extremely difficult. Have you ever moved to a new community? Imagine moving to a new country and society where you are unable to communicate, do not know your way around, and do not know the “rules.” The three facets to the process of overall acculturation are socialization, acculturation, and assimilation.
While becoming a competent participant in the dominant culture, a member of the nondominant culture is always identified as a member of his or her original culture. The process of acculturation is involuntary, and a member of the nondominant cultural group is forced to learn the new culture to survive. Acculturation also refers to cultural or behavioral assimilation and may be defined as the changes of one’s cultural patterns to those of the host society. In the United States, people assume that the usual course of acculturation takes three generations; hence, the adult grandchild of an immigrant is considered fully Americanized. It is with this population that the answers on the Heritage Assessment Tool may become more negative as family ties, spoken language at home, and other variables may be lost.
Acculturation also may be referred to as assimilation, the process by which an individual develops a new cultural identity. Assimilation means becoming in all ways like the members of the dominant culture. The process of assimilation encompasses various aspects, such as cultural or behavioral, marital, identification, and civic. The underlying assumption is that the person from a given cultural group loses this cultural identity to acquire the new one. In fact, this is not always possible, and the process may cause stress and anxiety (LaFrombose et al., 1993). Assimilation can be described as a collection of subprocesses: a process of inclusion through which a person gradually ceases to conform to any standard of life that differs from the dominant group standards and, at the same time, a process through which the person learns to conform to all the dominant group standards. The process of assimilation is considered complete when the foreigner is fully merged into the dominant cultural group (McLemore, 1980, p. 4).
The concepts of socialization, assimilation, and acculturation are complex and sensitive. The dominant society expects that all immigrants are in the process of acculturation and assimilation and that the worldview we share as healthcare practitioners is shared by our patients. Because we live in a pluralistic society, however, many variations of health beliefs and practices exist.
The debate still rages between those who believe that America is a melting pot and that all groups of immigrants must be acculturated and assimilated to an American norm, and those who dispute theories of acculturation and believe that the various groups maintain their own identities within the American whole. The concept of heritage consistency is one way of exploring whether people are maintaining their traditional heritage and of determining the depth of a person’s traditional cultural heritage.