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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social service agents and Indo-Canadian immigrants in Vancouver : implications of models of social exchange for intercultural transactions Wood, Marjorie Rodgers


The present dissertation seeks to ascertain the implications of contrasting models of social exchange for intercultural transactions, specifically, for transactions between Euro-Canadian social service agents and Indo-Canadian immigrant clients. In so doing, it meets a two-fold objective to apply social exchange theory to intercultural exchange, and to examine the cultural context of agent-client relationships. The research involved three basic steps: development of an analytical framework, identification of the agents' and clients' models of social exchange, and identification of the patterns of transaction obtaining between the agents and clients. The analytical framework developed explicitly and simultaneously incorporates three modifications to classic social exchange theory suggested by symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, and transactional analysis. It posits culturally specific values as underlying each actor's perception of an exchange situation. It posits culturally specific goals as underlying each actor's exchange decisions. And it posits culturally specific modes of transaction as underlying manifest exchange behaviour. Accordingly, the identification of the agents' and clients' models of social exchange entailed the identification of their values, goals, and transactional modes. For social service agents, according to the social service literature, the rights and responsibilities of the individual constitute an ultimate value. To realize this value, agents pursue the goal of client self-fulfillment, ideally through the transactional mode of professional mutual exchange. For Indo-Canadian clients, according to the ethnographic literature, the honour of the family unit constitutes the ultimate value. Honour accrues to the family which fulfills its dharma or ascribed duties of self-sufficiency, caste-purity, and service to others. If service from others is required, it is best transacted in the mutual exchange mode which characterizes friendships. A comparison of the two models of social exchange suggests that difficulties in the Euro-Canadian agent/Indo-Canadian client relationship will emerge where agent transactions are perceived by clients to impinge on family honour, and where client transactions are perceived by agents to impinge on the rights and responsibilities of the individual. The patterns of transaction, identified through interviews with 40 Indo-Canadian clients, 37 Euro-Canadian agents, and 21 Indo-Canadian agents, tend to confirm this hypothesis. Agents feel frustrated by client resistance to intervention, reluctance to disclose and discuss problems, expectations of direct and continuous advice, and non-implementation of advice that is given. Clients express irritation at agent reluctance to provide personal information, attribution of problems to Indo-Canadian life-style, withdrawal from the helping role, and refusal to accept prestations. The models of social exchange serve to explicate not only the points of difficulty in the agent-client relationship but also the correspondences between the agents' and clients' patterns of transactions. Agents who disclose personal information, interpret problems in cultural terms, provide direct or extensive counselling, and accept client prestations tend to report that clients disclose problems to them, discuss problems willingly, implement suggestions, and carry on independently. Consistently, the patterns of client transactions correspond more to the patterns of agent transactions than they do to the ethnic background of the agents.

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