Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Social Work

Abstract

The present research addressed acculturative stress experiences and coping strategies used by Asian Indians residing in the United States. The organizing research question was "What are the acculturative stress experiences and coping strategies used by first generation Asian Indians living in the United States?" The research question was explored through fourteen hypotheses.

A mixed method approach was employed. For the first phase, 54 first-generation Asian Indians were recruited from four sites using a purposive convenience sampling method, the SAFE-R standardized questionnaire was used to measure acculturative stress, the COPE scale to measure coping strategies, and a culturally grounded Socio-Demographic Information Form designed by the researcher were used. SPSS was used to analyze these forms, twelve of the fourteen hypotheses showed statistically significant correlations between scores on either the COPE or the SAFE-R scales (dependent variables) and the Socio-Demographic Information Form (independent variables). In Phase-Two, detailed interviews were conducted with a systematic convenience subsample of ten Asian Indian respondents to provide a deeper understanding of acculturative stress and coping in this population. All the instruments were translated and back translated into Hindi for those not proficient in English. Inter-rater reliability was ensured in thematic analysis of the qualitative data. Qualitative analysis yielded five overall themes: (1) What makes you feel different within the group and outside?

(2) What does `Home' mean to you? (3) What keeps you happy and motivated? (4) How do you communicate with others around you? (5) What is important for you to feel settled here?

There were many outcomes in the present study: Adolescent and elderly immigrants had higher levels of acculturative stress as compared to other Asian Indian immigrants; length of time did not show higher or lower effect on acculturative stress scale, whereas females showed higher levels of stress compared to males during the interviews. Exploring the sense of home in the interviews, using the category of ethnic enclave, most of the participants revealed that they missed their home and cited many features: lack of familiar food and festivals, lack of known location, and concerns due to different climatic condition. Also home and family members were identified as structures of social support as well as stress among the respondents. Recreational and religious activities showed a significant correlation with some of the COPE sub-scales and were revealed to be sources of social support in the qualitative interviews. All the respondents found difficulty in one or more aspects of communicating in English. In spite of their high level of education all the respondents expressed increased acculturative stress. Pre-immigration preparation showed a positive impact on decreasing acculturative stress. Although employment and immigration status did not produce any statistically significant relationship with stress or coping, most of all the respondents expressed a concern regarding its impact on the level of stress during the interviews.

With regard to extant theories of acculturative stress and coping, the findings lead to more nuanced and finely tuned application of these theories to understand the experiences of Asian Indians. Social work practitioners can make use of these results to calibrate services more accurately to the needs of this population and to take more preventive action on behalf of those persons most likely to suffer the greatest acculturative stress. In regard to methodology: the study suggests that language translation is necessary but may not always be sufficient to make a questionnaire or a study created in English useful for a truly meaningful application to an ethnic subgroup, and that the insider perspective available through the ethnically congruent interviewer can be essential to the value of such a study. The results of this study can be valuable both to improve services and research and to amplify the application of the ecological and the strengths perspectives used in the field of social work.

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