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«The Mediating Effect of Acculturation on the Effectiveness of Culturally Adapted Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Mexican Americans Suffering From ...»

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Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina) is described as having a mistrust of strangers and a fear of losing their independence and selfsufficiency. In addition, Anglo-Americans in the Appalachian region have tight extensive kinship systems (McGill & Pearce, 1982).

The Anglo-American culture is representative of the mainstream culture of the United States. However, belonging to a minority group does not preclude individuals from embracing the values of the U.S. mainstream culture. Values such as individualism, independence, and autonomy are the most prominent in the U.S. mainstream culture, even though there might be some regional variations. This dissertation examines the acculturation process of Mexican Americans, both U.S.-born and foreign-born, into this U.S. mainstream culture.

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According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, Geografia e Informatica (Mexican Census Bureau), the population in Mexico reached 97,483,412 in the year

2000. Understanding the diversity of people in Mexico is key because it provides insight into the diverse group of people that is immigrating to the United States from Mexico. In fact, forty-three percent of the growth in the foreign-born population in the United States between 1990 and 2000 was due to immigrants from Mexico (Camarota & McArdle,

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immigration from various parts of the world. Mainstream Mexico is a combination of influences from Europe and the Orient that result in a culture full of historical influences in some parts and purely Indian in others (LaFayette de Mente, 1996). For example, influences from Spain can be seen throughout Mexico in art and architecture, in combination with Meso-American influences of art and architecture from the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Mexico’s many paradoxes include the omnipresent influence of Catholicism mixed with the pagan soul of the people; the brutality of the criminal and the rogue cop mixed with the gentle humility of the poor farmer; the warmth, kindness and compassion of the average city dweller mixed with the masculinity cult (Lafayette de Mente, 1996).

Spanish is Mexico’s official language, but there are different dialects in various regions. There are 94 indigenous languages still spoken in Mexico (INEGI, 2000). The indigenous language Nahuatl is the predominant indigenous language spoken (22.9%), followed by the Mayan language (14.3%). Of the 24.8 million households in Mexico, 2 million households speak indigenous languages, equaling approximately 6 million people. The proportion of people in Yucatan who speak an indigenous language is 51.6%, in Oaxaca 44.3%, in Quintana Roo 29.3% and Chiapas 29.1 (INEGI, 2005).

Mexican people on the northern Mexican border are highly influenced by American culture. For example, it is not uncommon to see American holidays such as Halloween celebrated in this area, a custom that is not seen as you travel further south

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may be that of fishermen and boating.

Mexico City is a vast and sophisticated metropolitan region that has for over five hundred years served as the capitol of Mexico and the seat of the paramount power in that area of North America during the Aztec period. Mexico City has a population of nearly 9 million people (INEGI, 2000). Mexico City and Chihuahua City, have an abundance of people who are Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian descent). In these cities it is not uncommon to see people of tall stature, with light skin, light brown hair and green or blue eyes. Mexican people in these areas are known to be more urbanized and assertive.

Monterey and Chihuahua City are younger cities with greater average prosperity with economies tied to industrialization, mining and ranching. People from these cities tend to be urbanized and business-oriented. On the other hand, southern states such as Yucatan, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Quintana Roo have more indigenous people whose phenotype is that of a small stature, dark skin, and thick dark hair. These people are known to be more passive and soft-spoken.

The cultural characteristics of Mexicans are associated with the hundreds of years of adaptation as a result of being a historically conquered nation (LaFayette de Mente, 1996). One of the predominant cultural characteristics of Mexican people is that they are exceptionally emotional. This cultural characteristic is demonstrated in their songs, dances, and aspects of their interpersonal behavior. In addition, Mexicans tend to put more emphasis on a person’s inner qualities than how hard they work. Humor has been

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the most part, are expected to keep house and wait on the male members of the family.

Similarly, Mexican healers (curanderas) tend to be women as they have historically also fulfilled the role of midwives (LaFayette de Mente, 1996).

Mexican American Culture: An Amalgamation of Cultures The Mexican American culture can be characterized as an amalgamation (a fusion of two groups to form a new culture) that results when the Mexican culture and the U.S.

Mexican culture intersect. Despite the wide range of cultural characteristics that are seen in Mexican Americans several key characteristics are described in the literature as being prominent. Examining these characteristics sets the stage for understanding the differences and similarities between the Mexican American culture and the U.S.

mainstream culture (see Table 3-1). The context of this amalgamation is set in the acculturation process. For example, Mexican Americans will differ in their customs, beliefs and behaviors based on their acculturation level. They range from very traditional, holding strong ties to Mexican traditional characteristics, to more urbanized and capitalist, resembling the U.S. mainstream culture.

Familism or familismo is characterized by strong family closeness and loyalty in Mexican American families (Alvidrez & Bean, 1976; Mindel, 1980). For some traditional, Mexican Americans, family includes a network of formal and informal relations that are considered the center of an individual’s psychosocial world (Holleran & Waller, 2003). This phenomenon is demonstrated in family members’ behavior

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American families to live in close proximity and visit one another several times per week.

A second way in which familism is demonstrated is what is called attitudinal familism in which families make decisions in a collective manner and they protect one another from outside forces. Familism includes the sharing of caretaking and disciplining of children, financial responsibility, companionship, emotional support and problem solving (Falicov, 1982).

Deference to authority, also known as abiding by a rigid hierarchical structure is identified in the literature as another prominent cultural characteristic of traditional Mexican Americans. Mexican American children are raised with very strict boundaries between themselves and their parents (Falicov, 1982). Respect is expected and is defined as a relationship involving a “highly emotionalized dependence and dutifulness, within a fairly authoritarian framework” (Diaz-Guerrero, 1975, p. 140). This way of relating to those considered to be in power is later translated into having a high deference to authority in school and in the work place (Hofstede, 1980). For some Mexican Americans this characteristic may lead them to be passive towards authority figures. Similarly, a high degree of deference may lead Mexican Americans to expect health care professionals to be highly directive and to act as experts (Poonam, 2002).

Other cultural characteristics that are associated with Mexican Americans are “present-orientedness” and “fatalism”. Poonam (2002) writes that unlike the dominant U.S. culture, Hispanic cultures generally focus more on the past (tradition) and present,

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Mental processes and Linear, logical, sequential, Lateral, holistic, simultaneous;

learning style problem-solving focus acceptance of life’s difficulties

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Source: Adapted from Gardenshwartz, L. & Rowe, A., 2006. Managing diversity survival guide:

A complete collection of checklists, activities and tips. Burr Ridge, IL: Irwin Professional.

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traditional Mexican Americans who do not feel they have control over their environment.

One author proposes that historically, people in Mexico have been in a position of powerlessness and have learned to accept things as they come. He adds that the term “ni modo” (oh well) has become a culturally conditioned attitude, reinforced by religion (Lafayette De Mente, 1996).

Three cultural characteristics that describe how some Mexican Americans relate to others are “formalidad”(formality), simpatia “(congeniality)“ and personalismo (personalism). Lafayette De Mente (1996) writes that just as Americans pride themselves on their informality, Mexicans are proud of their more formal behavior and regard it as one of the most important aspects of their culture. This formality is evidenced by Mexican Americans who prefer to be greeted with a handshake and by the use of the more formal version of “you” in the Spanish language (usted) that is customarily used initially to address new acquaintances. Simpatia emphasizes the need for behaviors that promote pleasant and non-conflicting social relationships (Triandis, Marin, Lisansky, and Betancourt, 1984). The term personalismo has to do with some Mexican Americans’ focus on relationships rather than on tasks (Levine & Padilla, 1980).

Two predominant cultural characteristics associated with gender roles for traditional Mexican Americans are machismo and marianismo. Machismo refers to the male role that is demonstrated by some Mexican American men. The negative aspects of machismo are bravado, physical aggression, womanizing and philandering. The positive

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concept that portrays women as spiritually superior to men and therefore can endure all suffering inflicted by men. This concept takes its name from the cult of the Virgin Mary in the Catholic tradition and was first identified by Stevens in 1973 (Marsiglia & Holleran, 1999).

Cultural Characteristics of the Study Population: Mexican Americans in El Paso The Mexican American population in El Paso is as diverse as that of Mexico itself. People in El Paso may be at various stages of acculturation ranging from adhering to their heritage culture, being bicultural, being prone to the contemporary mainstream culture values, or being marginalized. Even though Spanish is the predominant language spoken in the city, there are variations ranging from proper business Spanish to a mixture of Spanglish (sentences with English and Spanish words interspersed) and Calo (Chicano slang that is an adaptation of Spanish, English and indigenous languages). Some of the major issues faced by the people in El Paso are low educational attainment, low employment opportunities, low income, and poor access to both mental health and medical care.

Despite the heavy influence from the Anglo-American culture that exists in El Paso, it is unlikely the area will ever become completely acculturated because of the close proximity to Mexico and the continuous influx of people from Mexico. Mexican Americans continue to be one of the least assimilated ethnic group in the United States, even after several generations. Consequently, the El Paso area will always be a community in transition. This presents challenges to Mexican American individuals and 46 families. Mexican American individuals may find themselves having to reconcile values from two different worlds. Gloria Andalzua (1987), a prominent Mexican American writer, posits “cradled in one culture, sandwiched between two cultures, straddling all three cultures and their value systems….a struggle of flesh, a struggle of borders” (p. 78).

Changes in gender roles may also take place as individuals pass through the acculturative process. These changes in gender roles can pose challenges to individuals as they move from a hierarchical relationship structure to a more egalitarian structure (Leaper & Valin, 1996). One example is when Mexican females want to move away from being submissive to their husbands and seek autonomy. Another example is when young Mexican females wish to leave the home to seek a career.

Another challenge that may result from the acculturation process is that Mexican immigrant parents may experience conflicts with their children if their children acculturate at a faster rate. Conflicts may occur related to traditional Mexican values and U.S. mainstream values. This in turn can lead to intergenerational stresses that result in maladaptive behaviors (Gil, Tubman, &Wagner, 2001; Gil & Vega, 1996; Szapocznik, Scopetta, Kurtines, & Andrade, 1978; Vega et al., 1986). The challenges that result from the acculturation process in the El Paso area raises the question of whether practitioners should utilize interventions that are culturally relevant in order to assist families in managing these issues.

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The acculturation process is a very complex phenomenon that has been studied for decades. Early definitions of acculturation described it as a process that takes place at the cultural level when “groups of individuals having different cultures come into continued first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns of either or both groups…(Redfield, Linton, & Herskovits, 1936, p. 149). The Social

Science Research Council (1954) later defined it as:

Cultural change that is initiated by the conjunction of two or more autonomous cultural systems. Acculturative change may be the consequence of direct cultural transmission; it may be derived from non-cultural causes, such as ecological or demographic modification induced by an impinging culture; it may be delayed, as with internal adjustments following upon the acceptance of alien traits or patterns; or it may be a reactive adaptation of traditional

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