Intra-cultural Differences among Iranians and Iranian Americans: Acculturation, Acculturative Stress, and Religious Self-identification Nazanin Saghafi, M.A. Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Intra-cultural Differences among Iranians and Iranian Americans: Acculturation, Acculturative Stress, and Religious Self-identification Nazanin Saghafi, M.A. Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology

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Title: Intra-cultural Differences among Iranians and Iranian Americans: Acculturation, Acculturative Stress, and Religious Self-identification Nazanin Saghafi, M.A. Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology


1
Intra-cultural Differences among Iranians and
Iranian Americans Acculturation, Acculturative
Stress, and Religious Self-identification
Nazanin Saghafi, M.A.Pepperdine University
Graduate School of Education and Psychology
2
Characteristics of a sizable subgroup may
contaminate the experience of the whole group if
it is not studied separately, thus leading to
erroneous conclusions about the group as a whole
-Mehdi Bozorghmehr (1992)
3
Purpose of Presentation
  • Background on traditional Iranian culture and
    values
  • An overview of research that explores
    acculturation challenges faced by Iranians as
    related to feelings of alienation and overall
    emotional well-being (i.e., depression, anxiety,
    and stress)
  • An overview of intra-cultural differences among
    religious subcultures within the Iranian
    population
  • A discussion on the potential influence of
    religious self-identifications among Iranians and
    Iranian Americans to acculturation and emotional
    well-being

4
Cultural Identity
  • Cultural identity is the complex set of beliefs
    and attitudes people have about themselves in
    relation to their culture.
  • Berry (2001)

5
Acculturation
  • The experience of acculturation can be highly
    variable among individuals of a particular
    immigrant group and across various immigrant
    groups
  • The quality of acculturation for any given
    individual may be determined by sociocultural and
    racial environments
  • Acculturative stress is when the process of
    acculturation results in negative psychological
    outcomes such as lowered mental health status
    (particularly anxiety and depression), feelings
    of alienation, heightened levels of psychosomatic
    symptoms, and identity confusion

6
Traditional Iranian Values
  • Iranians are generally found to be proud of their
    ethnic/cultural identity
  • Iranian cultural characteristics are a part of
    Iranians everyday lives
  • Family is the most influential aspect of an
    Iranian individuals life
  • Iranian families tend be patriarchal
  • Restrictive views are common regarding premarital
    sex, sex education, homosexuality, and divorce
  • Jalali (2005)

7
The Challenges of Acculturation
  • The sudden loss of their country due to the
    Iranian Revolution has caused Iranian immigrants
    to experience alienation mostly from the loss of
    ties to family and a sense of loss of their
    native culture
  • Iranian immigrants face the challenge of
    integrating new ways of thinking and acting into
    their traditional upbringing they want to fit in
    with the norm, but they also experience feelings
    of guilt for rejecting the norms upheld by their
    parental figures, potentially resulting in
    feelings of conflict, anomie, formlessness,
    depression, and anxiety

8
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9
The Challenges of Acculturation
  • Adaptation towards Western values is placing a
    strain on many Iranian families
  • Iranian women in the U.S. are adopting more
    flexible attitudes regarding pre-marital sex,
    marriage, and the family, while Iranian men are
    holding more traditional attitudes
  • The gender difference in the adoption of Western
    values may be contributing to the rise of divorce
    among Iranian couples in the U.S.
  • Hanassab Tidwell (1996) Hojat et al.
    (1999) Hojat et al. (2000)

10
The Challenges of Acculturation
  • Iranian immigrants report an acculturation
    strategy in which they maintain their native
    culture in the home while adapting to the
    American culture in the work setting
  • Iranians who are more committed to their culture
    were found to be more active within their
    religious communities
  • Bozorgmehr et al. (1996)

11
The Challenges of Acculturation
  • Being accepted by a larger group may influence
    self-esteem and overall emotional well-being
  • Iranians may feel alienated due to the political
    tension between the U.S. and Iran
  • Iranian women experiencing alienation report more
    symptomatology compared to Iranian women who are
    bicultural
  • Sameyah-Amiri (1998)
  • Ghaffarian (1998) Rouhparvar (2001) Kerendi
    1998)

12
Acculturation and Emotional Well-being
  • Iranians who are more resistant to American
    culture report higher levels of depression,
    anxiety, somatization, and stress
  • Iranian women tend to report more depression and
    anxiety symptoms than men
  • Older Iranian women tend to have more difficulty
    acculturating as they tend to resist the American
    culture
  • Ghaffarian (1998) Kadkhoda (2001)
    Rouhparvar, (2001)

13
Acculturation and Emotional Well-being
  • Iranian Individuals who maintain their own
    culture while incorporating aspects of American
    culture, exhibit less psychological distress
  • Within families, there may be members who use
    different acculturation strategies leading to
    potential intergenerational conflict
  • For young adult Iranians, lack of perceived
    family support is associated with higher levels
    of depression
  • Jalali (2005) Elia (2001)

14
Importance of Religion
  • Religion can influence ones identity, mood,
    affect, and behavior
  • Religious affiliation can offer individuals
    support as well as contribute toward conflict,
    and should, therefore, be considered in the
    assessment of an individuals mental health
  • Furthermore, there is an interrelationship
    between cultural identity and religious identity
  • Shafranske (1996)

15
Brief Overview of Iranian Religious History
  • 620 A.D., the national Iranian religion of
    Zoroastrianism was replaced by Islam
  • 1979, the Iranian Revolution turned Shahs
    dynasty into the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Changes have diminished the sense of belonging
    and ownership of ones Islamic faith among
    Iranian Muslims despite it being the majority
    religion of Iran, resulting in a lack of cohesion
    between Iranian culture and tradition with ones
    religious beliefs
  • Shahideh (2002)

16
Intra-Cultural Religious Differences
  • There are four major subgroups of Iranians
    Muslim, Jewish, Bahai, and Armenian Iranians
  • Key differentiating factor is religion
  • Level of acculturation among groups is variable
    because of different historical and political
    experiences

17
Intra-Cultural Religious Differences
  • Jewish and Bahai Iranians have had particularly
    different experiences because immigration was the
    only choice for their survival and religious
    freedom
  • Jewish Iranians exhibited the strongest ethnic
    identity after migration while Muslims exhibited
    the least
  • Bozorghmehr (1992)

18
Intra-cultural Religious Differences
  • Iranian immigrants who were minorities in Iran,
    (Jews, Bahais, and Armenians), maintain their
    ethnic identification more than immigrants who
    belonged to the majority, i.e., Muslims
  • Muslim Iranians experienced a loss of ethnic
    identification as they had to shift from being a
    member of the majority group in Iran to one of a
    minority group in the United States
  • Bozorghmehr (1992) Zarnegar (1997)

19
Intra-cultural Religious Differences
  • Pre-migration religiosity is an important
    determinant of post-migration religiosity
  • Iranian Muslims appear to have a stronger
    identification with their Iranian nationality
    than Muslim religion
  • Bozorghmehr (1992)

20
Intra-cultural Religious Differences
  • A study by Shahideh (2002) found that there is a
    lack of cohesiveness among Muslim Iranians (for
    immigrants and for those who currently live in
    Iran), perhaps due to an absence of a sense of
    belonging to Islam

21
Iranian Cultural Identity vs. Religious Identity
  • Celebration of Persian New Year, Nowruz
  • Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah
  • Islamic New Year, Hijrah
  • Bahai New Year, Nowruz
  • Armenian New Year, New Years Eve

22
Iranian Cultural Identity vs. Religious Identity
  • Bahais and Muslims were found least likely to
    become more religiously identified after
    migration than Armenians and Jews
  • Jewish Iranians have shared 25 centuries with
    the Iranians therefore, they share many values
    and traditions
  • However, Jewish Iranians, unlike Muslim Iranians,
    are strongly tied to their religion as they have
    experienced religious continuity throughout the
    past 2,500 years
  • Bozorghmehr (1992) Banafsheian (2003) Kelly
    (1993)

23
Jewish Iranian Immigrants
  • Appear to have stronger ties with other Jewish
    Iranians in Los Angeles than they did in Iran
  • Some research indicates they did not have to
    adjust to as much change because they have
    maintained their social networks and cultural
    traditions
  • They may experience conflict between two distinct
    cultures
  • Bozorghmehr (1992) Banafsheian (2003) Kelly
    (1993) Zarnegar (1997)

24
Muslim Iranian Immigrants
  • Do not appear to use religion to alleviate stress
    that results from family or cultural conflicts
  • The Islamic Revolution may have impacted their
    perception of using religion as a means of coping
    as they have experienced dramatic challenges that
    may have influenced their perception of religion
    and country
  • Famili (1997)

25
Different Religious Identifications and Well-being
  • Social support and spiritual well-being appear to
    be predictors of psychological well-being
  • Jews and Bahais were found to use more habitual
    coping styles than Muslims
  • Many Muslims in this sample, converted to
    Christianity to seek control over their lives and
    feel a sense of belonging however, those who
    converted were also found to have increased
    anxiety
  • Those in the sample who identified as Muslim were
    found to have increased levels of depression,
    paranoid ideation, and spiritual desolation
  • Khobod (1997)

26
Conclusions
  • Religion has been the basis of an influential
    historical and political context that shapes the
    life experience of the various ethnic groups that
    compose the Iranian population and requires more
    study
  • Unquestionably more research is required to
    further the fields understanding of within-group
    differences, in general, among members of the
    Iranian population
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