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Intra-cultural Differences among Iranians and Iranian Americans: Acculturation, Acculturative Stress, and Religious Self- identification Nazanin Saghafi,

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Presentation on theme: "Intra-cultural Differences among Iranians and Iranian Americans: Acculturation, Acculturative Stress, and Religious Self- identification Nazanin Saghafi,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Intra-cultural Differences among Iranians and Iranian Americans: Acculturation, Acculturative Stress, and Religious Self- identification Nazanin Saghafi, M.A. Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology

2 “Characteristics of a sizable subgroup may contaminate the experience of the whole group if it is not studied separately, thus leading to erroneous conclusions about the group as a whole” -Mehdi Bozorghmehr (1992)

3 Purpose of Presentation Background on traditional Iranian culture and values Background on traditional Iranian culture and values An overview of research that explores acculturation challenges faced by Iranians as related to feelings of alienation and overall emotional well-being (i.e., depression, anxiety, and stress) An overview of research that explores acculturation challenges faced by Iranians as related to feelings of alienation and overall emotional well-being (i.e., depression, anxiety, and stress) An overview of intra-cultural differences among religious subcultures within the Iranian population An overview of intra-cultural differences among religious subcultures within the Iranian population A discussion on the potential influence of religious self-identifications among Iranians and Iranian Americans to acculturation and emotional well-being A discussion on the potential influence of religious self-identifications among Iranians and Iranian Americans to acculturation and emotional well-being

4 Cultural Identity Cultural identity is the complex set of beliefs and attitudes people have about themselves in relation to their culture. Cultural identity is the complex set of beliefs and attitudes people have about themselves in relation to their culture. Berry (2001)

5 Acculturation The experience of acculturation can be highly variable among individuals of a particular immigrant group and across various immigrant groups The experience of acculturation can be highly variable among individuals of a particular immigrant group and across various immigrant groups The quality of acculturation for any given individual may be determined by sociocultural and racial environments The quality of acculturation for any given individual may be determined by sociocultural and racial environments Acculturative stress is when the process of acculturation results in negative psychological outcomes such as lowered mental health status (particularly anxiety and depression), feelings of alienation, heightened levels of psychosomatic symptoms, and identity confusion Acculturative stress is when the process of acculturation results in negative psychological outcomes such as lowered mental health status (particularly anxiety and depression), feelings of alienation, heightened levels of psychosomatic symptoms, and identity confusion

6 Traditional Iranian Values Iranians are generally found to be proud of their ethnic/cultural identity Iranians are generally found to be proud of their ethnic/cultural identity Iranian cultural characteristics are a part of Iranians’ everyday lives Iranian cultural characteristics are a part of Iranians’ everyday lives Family is the most influential aspect of an Iranian individual’s life Family is the most influential aspect of an Iranian individual’s life Iranian families tend be patriarchal Iranian families tend be patriarchal Restrictive views are common regarding premarital sex, sex education, homosexuality, and divorce Restrictive views are common regarding premarital sex, sex education, homosexuality, and divorce Jalali (2005)

7 The Challenges of Acculturation The sudden loss of their country due to the Iranian Revolution has caused Iranian immigrants to experience alienation; mostly from the loss of ties to family and a sense of loss of their native culture The sudden loss of their country due to the Iranian Revolution has caused Iranian immigrants to experience alienation; mostly from the loss of ties to family and a sense of loss of their native culture Iranian immigrants face the challenge of integrating new ways of thinking and acting into their traditional upbringing; they want to fit in with the norm, but they also experience feelings of guilt for rejecting the norms upheld by their parental figures, potentially resulting in feelings of conflict, anomie, formlessness, depression, and anxiety Iranian immigrants face the challenge of integrating new ways of thinking and acting into their traditional upbringing; they want to fit in with the norm, but they also experience feelings of guilt for rejecting the norms upheld by their parental figures, potentially resulting in feelings of conflict, anomie, formlessness, depression, and anxiety

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9 The Challenges of Acculturation Adaptation towards Western values is placing a strain on many Iranian families Adaptation towards Western values is placing a strain on many Iranian families Iranian women in the U.S. are adopting more flexible attitudes regarding pre-marital sex, marriage, and the family, while Iranian men are holding more traditional attitudes Iranian women in the U.S. are adopting more flexible attitudes regarding pre-marital sex, marriage, and the family, while Iranian men are holding more traditional attitudes The gender difference in the adoption of Western values may be contributing to the rise of divorce among Iranian couples in the U.S. The gender difference in the adoption of Western values may be contributing to the rise of divorce among Iranian couples in the U.S. Hanassab & Tidwell (1996); Hojat et al. (1999); Hojat et al. (2000) Hanassab & Tidwell (1996); Hojat et al. (1999); Hojat et al. (2000)

10 The Challenges of Acculturation Iranian immigrants report an acculturation strategy in which they maintain their native culture in the home while adapting to the American culture in the work setting Iranian immigrants report an acculturation strategy in which they maintain their native culture in the home while adapting to the American culture in the work setting Iranians who are more committed to their culture were found to be more active within their religious communities Iranians who are more committed to their culture were found to be more active within their religious communities Bozorgmehr et al. (1996)

11 The Challenges of Acculturation Being accepted by a larger group may influence self-esteem and overall emotional well-being Being accepted by a larger group may influence self-esteem and overall emotional well-being Iranians may feel alienated due to the political tension between the U.S. and Iran Iranians may feel alienated due to the political tension between the U.S. and Iran Iranian women experiencing alienation report more symptomatology compared to Iranian women who are bicultural Iranian women experiencing alienation report more symptomatology compared to Iranian women who are bicultural Sameyah-Amiri (1998) Sameyah-Amiri (1998) Ghaffarian (1998); Rouhparvar (2001); Kerendi 1998) Ghaffarian (1998); Rouhparvar (2001); Kerendi 1998)

12 Acculturation and Emotional Well-being Iranians who are more resistant to American culture report higher levels of depression, anxiety, somatization, and stress Iranians who are more resistant to American culture report higher levels of depression, anxiety, somatization, and stress Iranian women tend to report more depression and anxiety symptoms than men Iranian women tend to report more depression and anxiety symptoms than men Older Iranian women tend to have more difficulty acculturating as they tend to resist the American culture Older Iranian women tend to have more difficulty acculturating as they tend to resist the American culture Ghaffarian (1998); Kadkhoda (2001); Rouhparvar, (2001) Ghaffarian (1998); Kadkhoda (2001); Rouhparvar, (2001)

13 Acculturation and Emotional Well-being Iranian Individuals who maintain their own culture while incorporating aspects of American culture, exhibit less psychological distress Iranian Individuals who maintain their own culture while incorporating aspects of American culture, exhibit less psychological distress Within families, there may be members who use different acculturation strategies leading to potential intergenerational conflict Within families, there may be members who use different acculturation strategies leading to potential intergenerational conflict For young adult Iranians, lack of perceived family support is associated with higher levels of depression For young adult Iranians, lack of perceived family support is associated with higher levels of depression Jalali (2005); Elia (2001) Jalali (2005); Elia (2001)

14 Importance of Religion Religion can influence one’s identity, mood, affect, and behavior Religion can influence one’s identity, mood, affect, and behavior Religious affiliation can offer individuals support as well as contribute toward conflict, and should, therefore, be considered in the assessment of an individual’s mental health Religious affiliation can offer individuals support as well as contribute toward conflict, and should, therefore, be considered in the assessment of an individual’s mental health Furthermore, there is an interrelationship between cultural identity and religious identity Furthermore, there is an interrelationship between cultural identity and religious identity Shafranske (1996) Shafranske (1996)

15 Brief Overview of Iranian Religious History 620 A.D., the national Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism was replaced by Islam 620 A.D., the national Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism was replaced by Islam 1979, the Iranian Revolution turned Shah’s dynasty into the Islamic Republic of Iran 1979, the Iranian Revolution turned Shah’s dynasty into the Islamic Republic of Iran Changes have diminished the sense of belonging and ownership of one’s Islamic faith among Iranian Muslims despite it being the majority religion of Iran, resulting in a lack of cohesion between Iranian culture and tradition with one’s religious beliefs Changes have diminished the sense of belonging and ownership of one’s Islamic faith among Iranian Muslims despite it being the majority religion of Iran, resulting in a lack of cohesion between Iranian culture and tradition with one’s religious beliefs Shahideh (2002) Shahideh (2002)

16 Intra-Cultural Religious Differences There are four major subgroups of Iranians: Muslim, Jewish, Bahai, and Armenian Iranians There are four major subgroups of Iranians: Muslim, Jewish, Bahai, and Armenian Iranians Key differentiating factor is religion Key differentiating factor is religion Level of acculturation among groups is variable because of different historical and political experiences Level of acculturation among groups is variable because of different historical and political experiences

17 Intra-Cultural Religious Differences Jewish and Bahai Iranians have had particularly different experiences because immigration was the only choice for their survival and religious freedom Jewish and Bahai Iranians have had particularly different experiences because immigration was the only choice for their survival and religious freedom Jewish Iranians exhibited the strongest ethnic identity after migration while Muslims exhibited the least Jewish Iranians exhibited the strongest ethnic identity after migration while Muslims exhibited the least Bozorghmehr (1992) Bozorghmehr (1992)

18 Intra-cultural Religious Differences Iranian immigrants who were minorities in Iran, (Jews, Bahais, and Armenians), maintain their ethnic identification more than immigrants who belonged to the majority, i.e., Muslims Iranian immigrants who were minorities in Iran, (Jews, Bahais, and Armenians), maintain their ethnic identification more than immigrants who belonged to the majority, i.e., Muslims Muslim Iranians experienced a loss of ethnic identification as they had to shift from being a member of the majority group in Iran to one of a minority group in the United States Muslim Iranians experienced a loss of ethnic identification as they had to shift from being a member of the majority group in Iran to one of a minority group in the United States Bozorghmehr (1992); Zarnegar (1997) Bozorghmehr (1992); Zarnegar (1997)

19 Intra-cultural Religious Differences Pre-migration religiosity is an important determinant of post-migration religiosity Pre-migration religiosity is an important determinant of post-migration religiosity Iranian Muslims appear to have a stronger identification with their Iranian nationality than Muslim religion Iranian Muslims appear to have a stronger identification with their Iranian nationality than Muslim religion Bozorghmehr (1992)

20 Intra-cultural Religious Differences A study by Shahideh (2002) found that there is a lack of cohesiveness among Muslim Iranians (for immigrants and for those who currently live in Iran), perhaps due to an absence of a sense of belonging to Islam A study by Shahideh (2002) found that there is a lack of cohesiveness among Muslim Iranians (for immigrants and for those who currently live in Iran), perhaps due to an absence of a sense of belonging to Islam

21 Iranian Cultural Identity vs. Religious Identity Celebration of Persian New Year, Nowruz Celebration of Persian New Year, Nowruz Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah Islamic New Year, Hijrah Islamic New Year, Hijrah Bahai New Year, Nowruz Bahai New Year, Nowruz Armenian New Year, New Year’s Eve Armenian New Year, New Year’s Eve

22 Iranian Cultural Identity vs. Religious Identity Bahais and Muslims were found least likely to become more religiously identified after migration than Armenians and Jews Bahais and Muslims were found least likely to become more religiously identified after migration than Armenians and Jews Jewish Iranians have shared 25 centuries with the Iranians; therefore, they share many values and traditions Jewish Iranians have shared 25 centuries with the Iranians; therefore, they share many values and traditions However, Jewish Iranians, unlike Muslim Iranians, are strongly tied to their religion as they have experienced religious continuity throughout the past 2,500 years However, Jewish Iranians, unlike Muslim Iranians, are strongly tied to their religion as they have experienced religious continuity throughout the past 2,500 years Bozorghmehr (1992); Banafsheian (2003); Kelly (1993) Bozorghmehr (1992); Banafsheian (2003); Kelly (1993)

23 Jewish Iranian Immigrants Appear to have stronger ties with other Jewish Iranians in Los Angeles than they did in Iran Appear to have stronger ties with other Jewish Iranians in Los Angeles than they did in Iran Some research indicates they did not have to adjust to as much change because they have maintained their social networks and cultural traditions Some research indicates they did not have to adjust to as much change because they have maintained their social networks and cultural traditions They may experience conflict between two distinct cultures They may experience conflict between two distinct cultures Bozorghmehr (1992); Banafsheian (2003); Kelly (1993); Zarnegar (1997)

24 Muslim Iranian Immigrants Do not appear to use religion to alleviate stress that results from family or cultural conflicts Do not appear to use religion to alleviate stress that results from family or cultural conflicts The Islamic Revolution may have impacted their perception of using religion as a means of coping as they have experienced dramatic challenges that may have influenced their perception of religion and country The Islamic Revolution may have impacted their perception of using religion as a means of coping as they have experienced dramatic challenges that may have influenced their perception of religion and country Famili (1997)

25 Different Religious Identifications and Well-being Social support and spiritual well-being appear to be predictors of psychological well-being Social support and spiritual well-being appear to be predictors of psychological well-being Jews and Bahais were found to use more habitual coping styles than Muslims Jews and Bahais were found to use more habitual coping styles than Muslims Many Muslims in this sample, converted to Christianity to seek control over their lives and feel a sense of belonging; however, those who converted were also found to have increased anxiety Many Muslims in this sample, converted to Christianity to seek control over their lives and feel a sense of belonging; however, those who converted were also found to have increased anxiety Those in the sample who identified as Muslim were found to have increased levels of depression, paranoid ideation, and spiritual desolation Those in the sample who identified as Muslim were found to have increased levels of depression, paranoid ideation, and spiritual desolation Khobod (1997) Khobod (1997)

26 Conclusions Religion has been the basis of an influential historical and political context that shapes the life experience of the various ethnic groups that compose the Iranian population and requires more study Religion has been the basis of an influential historical and political context that shapes the life experience of the various ethnic groups that compose the Iranian population and requires more study Unquestionably more research is required to further the field’s understanding of within-group differences, in general, among members of the Iranian population Unquestionably more research is required to further the field’s understanding of within-group differences, in general, among members of the Iranian population


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