Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fielding student Janet de Merode presents at National Session 2011

Fielding Graduate University
Research Poster Session at National Session 2011
Alexandria, VA

Two Halves Make a Whole: Evidence of Integration in Bicultural Adults' Chosen Visual Symbols of Self-Identity -- Janet de Merode, Student, School of Psychology


The lived experience and identity architecture of bicultural individuals is largely absent from research. Unlike biracial individuals whose physical appearance may expose a blended heritage, many bicultural individuals live their dual heritage within, positioning themselves at their own discretion. Consequently, this study employed a methodology enabling 10 bicultural females (mean age = 36) to illustrate their sense of self through narration about personal objects representing their identity, filmed using a self-operated video camera without a researcher present. The bicultural consciousness and identity expressed was thus an agentic choice, rather than reactive shifts in response to context. In addition to the videos created by participants, an online background survey and post-video telephone interview provided supplementary information. Common themes and a case study for each of the bicultural women were corroborated with a separate coding analysis of the chosen objects (n=104).

The findings in this study suggest that bicultural heritage need not, by definition, exert a negative or confounding impact on the sense of self, as much of the existing literature assumes. On the contrary: the findings in this qualitative and phenomenological study suggest that even when bicultural individuals grow up in a life of constant change – of language, home, school, community and social circle – they nevertheless can experience bicultural identity as rich and dynamic, developing a resilience to external change, and a deep respect for social diversity. Bicultural identity is mediated by close family relationships and emerges as evolutionary and malleable, rather than as an end-state to be achieved. The high geographic mobility and language proficiency in these study participants indicates that identity clarification is obtained through travel and multilingualism (mean languages = 3.3). Seeking identity coherence may entail denying some aspects of self, at least temporarily, making the management process as complex as the choices. In sum, this study concludes that biculturalism imparts benefits and a worldview well beyond the two halves of birth.

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