An exploration of the cultural adaptation processes of immigrants and local residents in a rural community
Using a grounded theory approach of qualitative inquiry, this study explored the processes of cultural adaptation of immigrants and local residents of a rural community in northeastern Nebraska. Interviews and observations were conducted with 12 immigrants and 12 local residents of the community. Constant comparative data analysis procedures were used to generate categories which were then related to each other within a grounded theory framework of central phenomenon, causal conditions, context, intervening conditions, strategies, and consequences. A model of cultural adaptation in a rural community was constructed from the data.
The central phenomenon described by the participants in this study was the nature of their intercultural interactions. Immigrants and local residents who experienced negative intercultural interactions tended to adopt more rigid and less inclusive acculturation strategies.
The data suggested that the participants' language ability, prior experiences with diversity, and community pride were the causal conditions of their intercultural interactions. Immigrant participants who were bilingual and who had previous experiences with diversity tended to have more positive intercultural interactions. Local residents who were bilingual, had previous experiences with diversity, and did not have strong feelings of community pride tended to have more positive intercultural interactions.
Contextual factors that were evident in the data were the participants' level of openness and the strength of their fear of the unknown. In addition, the intervening conditions of personal relationships, children 18 or under in the home, goals for being in the community, and initiative of immigrant participants appeared to mediate the type of intercultural interactions that they had. Local residents' intercultural interactions appeared to be mediated by personal relationships and key people in the community.
The acculturation strategies of integration, assimilation, separation, marginalization, and individualism appeared to be influenced by immigrants' intercultural interactions. Local residents' acculturation orientations of integration, assimilation, segregation, exclusion, and individualism appeared to be influenced by their intercultural interactions.
Recommendations included directions for future research in the field of acculturation and practical implications for community leaders and extension personnel.