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A potential developmental barrier for immigrants? Mixed evidence that a sensitive period affects acculturation Cheung, Benjamin Yue

Abstract

Although much research has found that younger immigrants acculturate to a new host culture better than older immigrants do, little work has been done to investigate whether this is due to one’s duration of exposure to the new cultural environment, or one’s age of exposure, while one may still be in a sensitive developmental period. We conducted two studies to determine whether duration of exposure or age of exposure has a greater influence on acculturation. Study 1 found an interaction between these two factors, such that participants’ identification with North American culture increased the longer they stayed in Canada, but only for immigrants who arrived before the age of 15. It also showed that implicit measures may better show linear effects of acculturation than explicit measures. Study 2, however, failed to replicate findings from Study 1, and no consistent pattern emerged from the implicit measures that were used. Overall, there is inconsistent evidence for the existence of a sensitive period for acculturation, suggesting that more empirical investigations are required.

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