Enculturation is a socialization process through which individuals learn about their culture and integrate its values and practices into their psychological and sociological profile or sense of themselves.
The effect of enculturation can be considered the ABCs of psychology: affectivity, behavior, and cognition. Enculturation is linked to psychological wellbeing, willingness to seek help, and self-esteem, among other attributes. Increased connection to care givers (such as parents), siblings, extended family, and the larger community reinforces benefits and positive beliefs in what it takes to be a functioning part of society. Enculturation is often used in conjunction with, in contrast to, and as part of acculturation theories. Scholars disagree regarding the degree to which they are different, but acculturation is typically defined as a two-directional process where cultural norms and standards of behavior are passed between differing cultures when they come into contact. In contrast, enculturation is a single-directional process by which individuals learn and maintain the norms of their native culture.
Enculturation issues arise in the case of immigrants, especially with regard to intergenerational relationships. Parent-child conflict in immigrant families is a well-documented and researched area. Studying these issues in immigrant families requires looking at differences that arise when immigrants are new to the host country, in contrast to a fourth-generation family. This diversity also reflects variability in the extent to which the dominant culture has made an impact, compared to retention of traditional values and customs. In general, more recent immigrants are more enculturated in traditional culture, and those who immigrated less recently are more acculturated. For Asian-Americans, one study reported that intergenerational conflict increased in areas such as education and dating, where the cultural chasm was wider between generations, that is, where children had become more affected by the host culture. Another study looked at the difference between Western culture low-context communication style (direct and specific, leaving little to culture to aid comprehension) often adopted by second and following generation young people versus Eastern culture high-context (indirect and respectful, where much is left to cultural context to explain) and maintenance of social hierarchy. New ways of self-expression may cast younger generations of Asian-Americans as rebellious or threatening to the hierarchy because they favor a more American, lowcontext manner of expressing themselves.
A 2013 study investigated the link between enculturation and mental health in African Americans and included the idea of conscious choice of enculturation over acculturation. The trend toward enculturation in the African-American community to the exclusion of mainstream American culture may be seen as a direct result of centuries of oppression; enculturation in the African-American subculture may be a more acceptable option than ongoing racism and exclusion. Where African Americans might choose enculturation as a safeguard, another group reveals the negative impact of lack of enculturation: International adoptees who grow up in an environment that does not support enculturation of native heritage possess a poorly formed cultural identity, with a resultant lack of psychological skills to deal with prejudice and discrimination.
Enculturation can also be used to describe the process of relearning or asserting a culture of origin for those generations removed from immigration, as in the case of fourth-generation Italian-and IrishAmericans. Studies found the sense of identity with the culture of generational origin to be more important than for recent immigrants.
See also Acculturation ; Assimilation ; Culture-fair test .
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National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD, 20892, (301) 496-4000, NIHinfo@od. nih.gov, http://www.nih.gov .