A Psychology of Immigration

A Psychology of Immigration

Berry, J. W. (2001). A Psychology of Immigration. Journal of Social Issues, 57(3), 615-63. This article proposes a framework for understanding the psychology of immigration linking acculturation and intergroup relations which explains how individuals achieve a fit between themselves and a new cultural environment. Berry (2001) examined two basic elements of cultural contacts namely degree of contact or avoidance with people outside of one’s group and the degree of cultural maintenance with one’s ethnic group.

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The author considered cultural adaptation as being multifaceted and certain variables such as personality, social support and life defining events can predict the extend of an individuals’ psychological adaptation. The author also argued that sociocultural adaptation is predicted by cultural knowledge, degree of contacts with one’s group, as well as group/intergroup attitudes. When moving to a new country immigrants have to adjust psychologically at two levels; an intra-personal in terms of self-perception and socially in terms of how they behave when interacting with groups.

Such intra- and inter- personal dynamic creates an intercultural space where boundaries for social relations and behaviours are redefined and sociocultural adaptation is predicted by cultural knowledge, degree of contacts with one’s group, as well as group/intergroup attitudes. Berry in collaboration with other authors developed a model linking acculturation and intergroup relations research to background context variable and outcomes. In Berry’s model there is high value on both cultural maintenance and on contact participation.

Later on Berry developed another typology that illustrated the distinctions between the two dimensions and between the views of the dominant and non-dominant groups. The two basic dimensions are represented in the model as independent of each other, first for the non-dominant, or immigrant, groups on the left of the figure and the dominant or receiving society, on the right of the figure with a positive orientation at one end and a negative one at the other.

Additionally Berry provides a detailed explanation of the contextual factors of cultural, social, and policy components of immigration in the acculturation framework from the perspective of the ethnocultural group and from the dominant society. Lastly the author presents a series of articles that can be mapped onto the framework presented in the article. The articles were divided into 3 groups: the first group focused on orientations in the larger society; the second on adaptation of immigrants and the third on the number of interactions that occur between the two.

Taken together the articles presented seek to comprehend a “psychology of immigration” raising key issues and strategies used by immigrants and receiving societies. Additionally the author calls for further research to be carried out in order to broaden our knowledge and understanding of the attitudes and behaviours that categorise immigrants and receiving societies.


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