Two halves make a whole: Evidence of integration in bicultural adults' chosen visual symbols of self-identity
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Conf usion of Meanings and Usage
Immigration and sojourners
Biracialism and bi - ethnicity
Problems with Biculturalism Research Methodology
The problem with priming
Presumed intrap sychic conflict
Presumption of a dominant side
Problems with samples
Self - identification as bicultural
Narrow methodological approach
The Personality Literature: Developments Promising for the Study of
Hearing B icultural Writers, Filmmakers, and Activists
Statement of the Problem
The Research Question and Purpose of the Study
Method of recruitment
The use of transitional objects
The use of audiovisual video technology for data collection
Self - narration without the physical presence of the researcher
Data collection Pha se 1: Online survey
Data collection Phase 2: Video production
Data collection Phase 3: Post - video interview
Summary of participant time and incentives
Hybrid data analysis
Living Biculturally: The Ten Participants’ Constructed Life Stories
Results and Analysis
Overall data collection outcomes
Part 1: Themes and patterns in participants’ stories of biculturalism
Multilingualism and high mobility
Mother as cultural connector, father reserved
Positive feelings about heritage outweigh conflictual ones
Conflict s tems from a search for belonging and felt authenticity
Part 2: Analysis of participants’ chosen visual objects
Summary: Results and Analysis
The centrality of culture
The primacy of familial relationships
Identity clarification and competency through travel and multilingualism
Bicultural individuals draw on four identity domains
Bicultural Life Experience and Identity Formation
Connecting this study’s findings to the existing literature
Bicultur al competence
The architecture of bicultural identity
The apparent resilience of bicultural families
Limitations of the Research
What was not there
Contributions of This Researc h
LIST OF FIGURES AND TABLES
Table 1: Total Estimated Time Required of Participants, Data Collection
Table 2: Coding Chosen Visual Objects: Summary of the Three Dimensions
and Th eir Categories
Table 3: Key Characteristics of Study Participants
Table 4: Participant Study Time and Number of Chosen Visual Objects
Table 5: Key Themes and Patterns Emergent in Participant Life Stories
Table 6: Coding Framework for Three Dimensions of the Chosen Visual Objects
Table 7: Coded Hierarchies for Dimensions of Chosen Visual Objects (N=104)
Figure 1: Word Frequency Cloud for All Participants’ Video Narratives,
Top 150 Words
Figure 2: Word Frequency C loud for All Participants’ Video Narratives,
Top 50 Words
LIST OF APPENDICES
Appendix A: Participant Recruitment Text (Email)
Appendix B: Informed Consent Form (Internet - based)
Appendix C: Participant Backgr ound Information Questionnaire (Internet - based)
Appendix D: Non - Qualifying Participant Text (Internet - based)
Appendix E.1: Package of Materials Mailed to Participants:
Appendix E.2: Package of Materials Mailed to Part icipants:
Instructions and Guidelines for Making Your Video
Appendix E.3: Package of Materials Mailed to Participants:
Technical Instructions for Video camera and Video transmission
Appendix F: Research Assistance Confidentiali ty Agreement (Email)
Appendix G: Thanks to Participants with Final Study Link (Email)
- Anonymous submission to Postcard Secrets, a social media project where individuals submit artistic postcards depicting their “innermost sec rets” ( http://www.postsecret.com/ )
The election of Barack Obama opened floodgates of intrigue over what it means to be bicultural, and the question found the academy pretty empty - handed. Despite a world of evap orating borders, little research on biculturalism accompanied the demographic shifts into more diverse family models and multicultural settings. Sprinkled throughout the social sciences, one problem is to find it; another is to decipher whether the mish - m ash of terms, definitions, and concepts actually constitutes a body of work about the same phenomena. In the psychological literature, Benet - Martínez and Haritatos (2005) found but 55 publications on biculturalism issued in the psychological literature si nce 1954, of which only 28 were empirical, ethnographic, or case studies. “These numbers indicate a huge knowledge gap in the understanding of bicultural identity formation and maintenance, and cultural identity in general” (p. 1016).
Other events and t rends converged to create fertile ground for curiosity over the inner nature of biculturalism. First, as if to pave the way for public awareness, the 2000 census in the United States allowed individuals for the first time to check more than one box, or de scribe their own self - identity on the question of ethnicity, and 3.4 million of them responded, believed to be an underestimation (Viadero, 2008) . This in turn sparked a broad conversation in government, educational institutions, and employers across the board on how to configure their own boxes for just about everyone for whom or about whom a form is filled out: children, parents, students, marr iage license applicants, medical patients, job seekers, and more.
Meanwhile, the field of social neuroscience debuted in the early 1990s, in a wedding of biological and social analyses during the decade of the brain. A blooming of scientific interest i n bilingualism emerged in the study of cognition, brain plasticity, and neuronal longevity, with linkages to protection against dementia. On the social and personality side, the rise of interest in both contextualism and hermeneutic phenomenology was occu rring, as well as the symbolic depathologization of multiple selves when “multiple personality disorder” became “dissociative identity disorder” in a 1994 revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4 th ed.; DSM - IV , American Psyc hiatric Association, 1994).
But maybe the most important factor was the explosion of media technology, providing free and multiple avenues for self - identified bicultural and multicultural people to speak for themselves. The contemporary fascination with personal narrative, and cheaper ways to convey it, make accessible a mushrooming volume of material about the
lives of ordinary people outside the circles of the rich and famous. As one self - identified biracial blogger put it: “We’re trendy now!” (thesciencegirl, 2008) .
The sum of these events and trends is insignificant compared to what the future holds. Over half the world’s population is es timated to be bilingual, reflecting the internalization of more than one culture (Tucker, 1999). In the United States, interracial marriages have increased by 665% since 1970, and already 19.5 % of the population over 5 years of age speaks a language othe r than English at home (U.S. Census, 2007).
Yet personality theory sheds little light on biculturalism. Similar to twin studies, research with bicultural individuals may provide the ultimate test of personality theory, in particular by challenging the deb ates of structure versus process and person versus situations, and by presenting a proving ground to an integrative approach where culture is seen as a central factor (for example, McAdams & Pals, 2006). This significant knowledge gap hinders an ability t o appreciate, analyze or find appropriate therapeutic protocols for bicultural individuals. A bicultural individual is now President of the United States, and heightened interest in his background and life experience makes bicultural research especially t imely.
A Confusion of Meanings and Usage
At least four different sets of meanings appear in the research literature addressing biculturalism. These center about immigration, bilingualism, biracialism/bi - ethnicity, and demographic di fferences such as religion and sexual preference.
Immigration and sojourners. In the first general usage, biculturalism is a term keyed to changes in location. It can refer to first, second, or third generation immigrants, and short - term sojourners su ch as students studying abroad and even tourists. In related empirical research, various specific time frames are attached, such as 5 years (Ben et - Martínez & Haritatos, 2005) , 2 years (Yamada & Singelis, 1999) , or even one year plus the ability to speak at least two languages fluently ( Hong, Morris, Chiu, & Benet - Martínez, 2000). This confounds or obviates empirical work comparisons or meta - analysis.
An underlying issue in this literature, at least regarding immigrants, is a perspective that presumes one culture as dominant or host, and the other as “heritage” or, in other words, minority ethnic (Guo, Suarez - Morales, Schwartz, & Szapocznik, 2009) . From this dominance perspe ctive comes the idea that one culture necessarily absorbs the other with the goal of acculturation or assimilation: The person arrives somewhere with one cultural suitcase, and instead of unpacking on arrival, either trades it in or acquires a second suitc ase. This perspective places the unwitting individual on a scale of assimilated to unassimilated, with implied success being at the assimilated end. While
this melting pot paradigm is shifting in the United States’ society toward a conceptual salad bowl of diversity, the academic literature remains largely rooted in the past.
In the second usage centered on language, bilingualism and biculturalism often are given equivalency. The measure is typically fluency in more than one language, som etimes specifying early childhood acquisition in the home, and other times schooling immersion in the second language. Contradicting this view, however, are researchers who speak to the nonequivalence of the two, despite interrelatedness (Paradis, 2008):
One may be bilingual but not bicultural if one has not lived in the L2 [second language] country. Speakers of the same language may partake of different cultures (e.g., French in France and in Quebec). Speakers of different languages may, to a great exte nt, belong to the same culture (e.g., Flemish and French speakers in Belgium). (p. 212)
“All social interaction is mediated through language” (Josselson, 1995, p. 330) . Thus an interesting question unanswered in the literature is, when a child forms relationships with close family members in different languages, what impact occurs on identity
formation? Foster (1996b) considers language as somewhere between the range of representational and dialogic interpretations of psycholinguistics, specifically as a “vehicle of expression for internal self - states [with] sensorial power to move, transform, and sculpt the interchange between two people” (p. 147). But if this is true, do bilinguals
manifest the same identity in each of their languages? More importantly, do th ey feel like a different person in each of their languages? As an important subset of bicultural individuals, bilinguals are particularly intriguing, as described by Foster (1996a) :
The bilingual person presents a packaging puzzle, as it were, in which two language - bounded experiential systems are housed in the confines of a single
mind. It is as if their internal life and experi ence of self comprise a delicate duet of voices emanating from two different symbolic worlds that must coexist, cooperate, and probably compete to ultimately form the illusion of a harmonized bilingual self. (p. 100)
Biracialism and bi - ethnicity.
Thir dly, probably the most dominant usage of biculturalism is within discussions of biracialism that refer to individuals with apparent, physical differences from other larger groups, and biological parents from two or more heritages. The term multiracial oft en appears as well. A viewpoint expressed in online blogs of mixed race communities, in fact, is that multiracial is a preferable term to biracial , as it recognizes that we are all of mixed race, and that “biracial” springs from the egregious history of r acist “one - drop” policies, segregation and apartheid. In Australia, however, the use of multiracial is disputed by aborigines, who prefer biracial
in order to respect the official recognition of two subsets of Australian people, namely, aborigines and tho se of heritage foreign to Australia. Japanese researchers Oikawa and Yoshida (2007) describe a similar phenomenon in their qualitative study with 13 biethnic
individuals in Japan:
The term “Biethnic” was chosen because we are referring to individuals who have parents of different ethnicities. In Japan, these individuals are called “Halfs.” Some, however, argue that this makes them sound like they are only half a person and therefore suggest using the term “Doubles” as they are not only Japanese but also a nother ethnicity (Life, 1995). Perhaps because of the familiarity as well as the positive image associated with the term “Half” in Japan, we have found that some Biethnic individuals have a strong negative reaction to the term “Doubles” and prefer the ter m “Half.” We chose the term “Biethnic” as we thought it was more neutral….the literature in this field, however, uses the term ‘Biracial’ more often. (p. 633)
In the struggle between biracial and multiracial as preferred terminology, there is also some confusion with cross - cultural, and in the U.S. context, diversity issues. While
cross - cultural generally is used in reference to contact or activity between two or more cultures, the issue of diversity resides at the level of cultural differences of the individuals within a group, and generally implies a group of various monocultural individuals. Indeed this raises the question of much of the literature, which departs from a U.S. socio - cultural perspective where the heritage of historical concerns with biological differences among so - called racial groups (Markus, 2008) and melting pot theories continue to frame the research paradigm. Unfortuna tely this dusts the literature with a White European comparator standard.
Finally, the term bicultural also is used in discussions focusing on demographic differences in religion, gender, sexual preference, or ethnicity and the lived experiences of persons operating in two or more settings or with two or more orientations. A major theme in this usage is identity integration across roles, for instance, between gender and professional identity (Bell, 1990; Cheng, Sanchez - Burks, & Lee, 2008) . Even the intrapsychic conflict between local affinity and the pressure o f globalization represented in the media is considered by some to endow an individual with biculturalism (Hermans & Dimaggio, 2007) .
Strangel y and inadequately, socio - economic differences are rarely addressed as representing a form of biculturalism, despite the aptness of DuBois’ notion of racial double consciousness appropriate in this domain too. Not that this is special to the study of bicu lturalism, as “(w)ith few exceptions, class as a meaningful identity is simply absent from the psychological literature” (Frable, 1997, p. 154) . High and low - SES cultures most certainly exist, however, with different value systems that variously shape
agency, power and privilege, and impact the expression of self (Cohen, 2009; Markus, 2008; Snibbe & Markus, 2005).
Thus this dispa rate range of usages complicates the task of collecting just what it is we know about biculturalism, much less bicultural people. Another issue is that between - group differences are the primary framework in the existing literature, with the important exce ption of the study of bilingualism. There, however, the interest is primarily either neurolinguistic or looking at the bilingual individual as two separate halves, another complicating factor in the research. The next section surveys this and other probl ems in existing research methodologies that address biculturalism.
Problems with Biculturalism Research Methodology
Two key notions anchor the scant research on biculturalism. One is a construct of bicultural identity integration (BII), employed in empir ical research by Benet - Martínez and colleagues (2002, 2005) to measure the degree to which a bicultural individual perceives her or his two identities as harmonious or in conflict. Thus far, research on the BII construct measures individual differences ba sed on operant responses to cultural primes and/or self - report questionnaires. The BII emerges as a moderator of bicultural individuals’ socio - cognitive behavior; those with a high BII describe their two identities as “fluid and complementary” and those w ith a low BII describe theirs as “conflicting and disparate” (Haritatos & Benet - Martínez, 2002, p. 588).
A related concept is cultural frame switching (CFS), the situations and points at which a bicultural individual shifts between behaviors aligned wit h cultural patterns of his or her two identities (Benet - Martínez, Leu, Lee & Morris, 2002). In a series of
controlled research studies expressly designed to determine the effects of CFS on Big Five personality traits (using the self - report Big Five Invent ory instrument), a team of researchers found CFS effects for extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness in Spanish - English speaking bilinguals (Ramírez - Esparza, Gosling, Benet - Martínez, Potter & Pennebaker, 2006). Specifically, they found that mon olingual Americans and bilinguals using English scored higher in these three traits than monolingual Mexicans and bilinguals using Spanish, conforming to cultural prototypes. This would seem to confirm Sapir’s (1927) view that speech itself is a personali ty trait. It may also suggest structural differences in the personality architecture of bicultural individuals, or at least fluid changes in response to linguistic or environmental cues.
Cross - cultural empirical work provides evidence for fluidity acros s situations, in particular in Asian cultures with high values for interrelationship in context, as opposed to the ideal of self - consistency across contexts more often found in Western societies. “In cultures in which people chronically adjust their perso nality across situations, the predictive power of traits may be limited” (Suh, 2002, p. 1389) . Bicultural individuals manage t his dynamic process of adjustment by definition, and represent a case in point in the challenge to the cross - cultural generalizability of trait theory.
The problem with priming.
Both the BII and CFS methodologies require priming a bicultural individual in one of her/his two cultural domains and effectively seeking temporary dominance of that side over the other. Thus the research participant is not in a full characterological state and is in a reactive mode as well, with implications for agency.
In addi tion, priming done linguistically, using one of the participant’s two or more languages, raises questions of confounding the data from nonequivalent translations with identity findings (Heller, Watson, Komar, Min, & Perunovic, 2007) . To address this problem, the more recent research uses pictures of cultural icons such as the Great Wall for Chinese or the American flag for U.S. p articipants (Hong, Morris, Chiu, & Benet - Martínez, 2000) . These are narrow primes, however, perhaps evoking memories of tourism or patriotism, or the textbooks of schooldays, but whether the full character is available – or rather the full side of half the character – is debatable.
Cervone (2005) tackles the issue of coherence in intra - individual structure and process by considering cross - situa tional functioning. It is unfortunate that in this otherwise comprehensive and intriguing treatment of within - person dynamics he does not consider biculturalism as a case in point. His approach is classically cognitivist, relying in good part on a distin ction between knowledge and appraisal processes in a systems view that seems particularly apt when thinking of the CFS phenomena of bicultural individuals. Cervone’s proposal is that between - person taxonomies such as the five - factor methodology have littl e to offer in understanding within - person constructs (despite McCrae et al. claims) and that it is a systems approach that informs:
The assumption that constructs identified in between - person research can be treated also as within - person structures is…impl icit in much of the field’s discourse. A critical feature of recent advances [in systems approaches] is that they completely undermine this assumption. In so doing, these advances motivate renewed attention to the topic that historically was the defining concern of personality psychology: the psychological life of the individual (e.g. Allport 1937, Stern 1935). (p. 425)
By this account, we are sent full circle. The trait psychologists may be authoritative for determining between - person group personali ty characteristics; however the cognitivists, by extension of Cervone’s thinking at least, would attribute agency to the whole person as a psychophysical entity, while allowing for a multivariate model of personality based on context. Cervone (2005) send s us back to the whole person view of Allport (1937, 1960) and on to hermeneutics:
One may wish to explain the actions of a given person at a given time and place….This requires that one understand the whole, coherent, contextualized person. Discursive (H arré & Van Langenhove, 1998) and dialogical approaches (Hermans, 2003) contribute to personality psychology by providing tools for such interpretation. (p. 432)
Thus while priming a bicultural person may extract some within - person trait differences, we are left with little insight into the relationship of these differences to each other or the role they play in the bicultural individual’s holistic self - identity.
Presumed intrapsychic conflict.
Writings about biculturalism in the psychology literature in the first half of the 20 th century centered around the marginality of persons living between two cultures, whether racial or cultural, and the presumed negative psychological impact that ensued from the presumed confusion (see LaFromboise, Coleman, & Ge rton, 1993, for a comprehensive discussion). Certainly this reflected socio - cultural mores in the US at the time, with attendant embedded prejudice. During and shortly after WWII, challenges to this “marginal man” theory began to appear, with the argumen t that bicultural individuals may actually find benefits in the ability to experience two cultures and thus may not inevitably internalize conflict from their dual origins (Goldberg 1941, and Green 1947, as cited in LaFromboise, 1993). While this
broadeni ng of the framework of inquiry allowed some light in the room, overall the biculturalism literature in the United States was dominated by the biracial/bi - ethnic usage exploring the crushing impact of prejudice and discrimination on the individual. In 1993 , a U.S. government funded literature review compiling background for the psychological health of minorities concluded “the literature on biculturalism consistently assumes that an individual living within two cultures will suffer from various forms of psy chological distress” (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993, p. 402) . The Bicultural Identity Index, one of the two centerpiece and groundbreaking constructs in recent bicultural empirical research, springs from this history; it seeks to measure the within - person dynamics as either in conflict or in harmony.
Another broad issue here is whether intrapsychic conflict for a bicultu ral individual evolves with life stages, changes according to context, or is significantly impacted by interpersonal relationships. The heritage of the dominant biracial/bi - ethnic usage in the literature tends to convey a message of inescapable permanence and saturation about this conflict that is countered by much of the more recent writings of self - identified bicultural people in the popular media. Yet researchers continue to set out explicitly to measure conflict, and thus it is small surprise that the y find some (Stroink & Lalonde, 2009) .
Presumption of a dominant side.
Along with the problems of priming and examining half of a bicultural individual’s personality at a time is the related problem of a presumed dominant side. Here again is the heritage of the immigration literature at
play, brought purposefully from the societal level to the individual (LaFromboise et al., 1993) :
Five models that have been used to understand the process of change that occurs in transitions within, between, and among cultures are assimi lation, acculturation, alternation, multiculturalism, and fusion. Although each was created to address group phenomena, they can be used to describe the processes by which an individual from one culture, the culture of origin, develops competence in anoth er culture, often the dominant majority culture. (p. 396)
Three issues are of concern here. One is the application of group process to self - identity dynamics; another is that the inner life of the individual is presumed to be anchored on one side with excursions to the other. Lastly, the notion of cultural competence raises the specter of measurement against some underlying standard of behavior or thought, and implies that bicultural individuals are striving to attain it. While this may be true in the
case of immigrants, sojourners, students, or tourists, the notion does not fit with a more narrowly defined bicultural individual who by definition carries within this twin competency.
Problems with samples. By far, the extant empirical research into biculturalism uses adolescent and college student participants. This raises the question of whether bicultural identity at this age is confounded by other developmental issues impacting self - identity. We can look to the active debate in personality theor y over universality of the Big Five traits to see this question writ large. Promoters of the Big Five theory assemble a large amount of data cross - culturally, using translated versions of the Big Five Inventory instrument to speak to the universality, and thus biologism, of the identified personality traits (McCrae & Costa, 1997; McCrae & T erracciano, 2005) . Others in the contextualist tradition posit the role of culture as bearing an overarching influence on the