Worlds apart: Bicultural identity development in Latino adolescents

Martica Bacallao, Paul R. Smokowski

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    2 Scopus citations


    Specific Aims: This paper focuses on the dynamics of second-culture-acquisition for Latino immigrant adolescents. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted to examine: (a) adaptation to life in the United States, (b) bicultural identity development, and (c) environmental influences that affected both cultural adaptation and bicultural identity development. Methods: Standardized, open-ended interviews were conducted with four adolescents and three parents who represented two different Latino subgroups (Mexicans, and Columbians). All of the participants immigrated to the United States within the last five years. Interview transcriptions were analyzed using Atlas.ti. The text was coded, categorized, and an extensive process of network mapping was performed. A network map was drawn to display a model for describing adolescent bicultural identity development processes. Results: Latino adolescents thought that they had three worlds to balance. (1) Their Latino world was primarily driven by dynamics within the home. This world was particularly invested in maintaining the adolescent's sense of familism and pride in her or his culture of origin. (2) School and American friends dominated the American world. These American influences were Assimilationist, pushing the adolescent to become increasingly integrated into American culture. The third world (3) was characterized by an emerging sense of self for the adolescent. This represented the internal process for integrating these disparate influences and making personal identity decisions. Each of these worlds has specific dynamics that help or inhibit bicultural development. Implications: This model can help social work researchers and practitioners understand the systemic dynamics behind adolescent acculturation. Practitioners can help Latino adolescents adjust by lowering assimilation pressures in the school environment and by targeting acculturation issues in Latino family systems.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationAcculturation
    Subtitle of host publicationImplications for Individuals, Families and Societies
    PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
    Number of pages17
    ISBN (Print)9781611225259
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


    • Acculturation
    • Adolescence
    • Biculturalism
    • Identity development
    • Latinos

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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