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Clashing cultures, clashing selves? : an analysis of the self-concept structure and psychological adjustment of bicultural people Assanand, Sunaina

Abstract

The present research was designed to examine the self-concept structure (i.e., the organization of self-beliefs) and psychological adjustment of bicultural people who are exposed to conflicting expectations of the self across their cultural environments. Three features of self-concept structure were examined—self-concept pluralism, cultural compartmentalization, and self-concept unity. Self-concept pluralism was assessed using Linville's (1985, 1987) measure of self-complexity. Cultural compartmentalization was assessed using a measure adapted from Showers' (1992) research on the compartmentalization of positive and negative self-beliefs. Selfconcept unity was assessed using (a) a measure of role integration adapted from Donahue et al.'s (1993) research on self-concept differentiation, (b) Campbell et al.'s (1996) Self-Concept Clarity Scale, and (c) a measure of actual-actual selfdiscrepancies adapted from Higgins' (1987) research on self-discrepancies. Selfconcept pluralism, cultural compartmentalization, self-concept unity, and psychological adjustment were assessed among monocultural and bicultural participants. The monocultural participants were Euro-Canadians and Indians living in India. The bicultural participants were Indo-Canadians. The results indicated that the bicultural participants were higher in cultural compartmentalization, lower in selfconcept unity, and lower in psychological adjustment than the monocultural participants. Moreover, the results showed that self-concept unity mediated the relationship between cultural exposure (i.e., monoculturalism vs. biculturalism) and psychological adjustment; lower levels of self-concept unity accounted for lower levels of psychological adjustment among the bicultural participants. Self-concept pluralism, cultural compartmentalization, self-concept unity, and psychological adjustment were also assessed for bicultural participants who used one of five strategies to cope with conflicting cultural expectations of the self—assimilation, separation, alternation, fusion, or marginalization. The results indicated that (a) participants who used alternation (i.e., who adhered to different norms and values in different cultural environments) were higher in cultural compartmentalization, lower in self-concept unity, and lower in psychological adjustment than participants who used other strategies and (b) participants who used fusion (i.e., who consistently adhered to a combination or blend of the norms and values of the dominant culture and the norms and values of their ethnic culture) were higher in self-concept unity and higher in psychological adjustment than participants who used other strategies. Moreover, the results showed that self-concept unity mediated the relationship between the strategies that participants used and psychological adjustment; lower levels of selfconcept unity accounted for lower levels of psychological adjustment among participants who used alternation, and higher levels of self-concept unity accounted for higher levels of psychological adjustment among participants who used fusion. The implications of these findings for theories of the psychological impact of biculturalism are discussed.

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