The Psychodynamics of First Generation Arab-American Muslim Women
This causal-comparative study explores the acculturation and its affects on the psychodynamics of first generation Arab-American Muslim women born and raised in the United States. Torn between the Old World customs of their parents and modern American traditions, first generation Arab-American Muslim women face a major identity challenge in trying to balance their two worlds.
Developmental psychologist E.H. Erikson (1970) proposed a theory of psychosocial development based on six basic concepts: stages of development, developmental task, psychosocial crisis, the central process for resolving the psychosocial crisis, the radius of significant relationship and coping behaviors. Coupled with Erikson’s theory is Young Yun Kim’s theory of acculturation (1977), which posits that acculturation is a phenomenon when immigrants eventually come to understand the norms and values of their “host society,” and that media of the host society provided a catalyst for the acculturation process.
Suinn, Rickard-Figueroa, Lew, & Vigil (1987) developed the Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Scale (SL-ASIA), with 26 questions designed to measure acculturation level. The author adjusted the SL-ASIA to a more Arab focused version of the scale, called the ASL-ASIA. A pilot study was conducted to insure reliability and validity. The Arab Focused Suinn-Lew Asian Self-Identity Acculturation Scale (ASLASIA) was used to measure the levels of acculturation of immigrant Arab Muslim mothers and the acculturation levels of their first generation Arab-American Muslim daughters.
A second tool used was the Mother-Adult Daughter (MAD) Questionnaire. Developed by Rastogi (1995), the twenty-five question MAD measures the adult daughter’s perception of connectedness, interdependence, and trust in hierarchy in her relationship with her mother.
The last instrument used in this study was the Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI). Created by Main et al. (1984) the AAI is used to assess the attachment related issues of the mother’s parenting styles. The AAI is a structured, hour-long, semi-clinical interview focusing on early experiences and their effects.
Several studies have shown that a mother’s attachment level affects the attachment level of her daughter. Therefore, this study focuses on the question: Does the level of acculturation of an immigrant Arab Muslim mother compare with the level of acculturation of her first generation Arab-American Muslim daughter? The research design of this study was based on an extensive literature review on the topics of Erikson’s psychosocial theory (1970), Kim’s acculturation theory (1977), Arab Muslim cultural perspective, and Islamic texts.
The premise of this study was that Arab Muslim mothers’ levels of acculturation will affect the levels of acculturation of their first generation Arab-American Muslim daughters. It was also expected that the level of maternal cultural identification would affect the acculturation level of the first generation Arab-American Muslim daughter. Finally, it is anticipated that the first generation Arab-American Muslim daughter’s level of acculturation would affect her attachment level to her immigrant Arab Muslim mother.
Findings appeared to support the hypothesis that the level of acculturation of the immigrant Arab Muslim mother is positively correlated with the level of acculturation of her first generation Arab-American Muslim daughter. A second hypothesis that the level of maternal cultural identification would affect the acculturation level of her first generation Arab-American Muslim daughter was not supported. Also, results did not support the third hypothesis that the acculturation level of first generation Arab-American Muslim daughters would affect her attachment level with her immigrant Arab Muslim mother.
The aim of future research is to aide therapists in becoming more culturally sensitive to their patients as well as to gain deeper understanding of the affects of acculturation. It will also assist immigrant mothers and first generation daughters of all nationalities to better transition their acculturation into the American society. Furthermore, first generation daughters alike will have greater insight into their own psychodynamics to aid in both their identity formation and their appreciation for their cultural differences.