Models of acculturation and health behaviors among Latino immigrants to the US
A basic premise of much of the health research conducted with immigrant groups is that culturally based behaviors change over time as a result of acculturation, i.e., interaction with the mainstream US culture. However, models of acculturation have not taken into account how group-specific characteristics and the varying social and political contexts immigrant groups face may impact the acculturation process. In this study of 150 families, we examined the inter-relationship of indicators of acculturation among two Latino groups to discern the impact of gender and country of origin on the relationship between variables. Results indicated that increased years of residence in the United States had the predictable impact of increased competence in English and increased use of English, but had differing impact by country of origin on the cultural orientation of the respondents’ environment and on ethnic identification. Also, gender was associated with differing levels of English language use and with perceived social acceptance, such that males used more English and reported less social acceptance than females. Loading separately from the language and cultural behavior variables, this factor, perceived social acceptance, merits research as a predictor of service use given that respondents understood non-acceptance as resulting from being identified as Latino, not from behaving differently from the mainstream. The differing patterns of association by country of origin and by gender and the measurement issues these raise, highlight the importance of specifying more complex models of acculturation than is done typically in research with Latinos.