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Ethnic identification_ self-esteem and immigrant psychological health

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									International Journal of Intercultural Relations 27 (2003) 23–40

Ethnic identification, self-esteem and immigrant psychological health
Drew Nesdalea,*, Anita S. Makb
a

School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, PMB 50 Gold Coast Campus, Parklands Drive, Southport, Qld. 4215, Australia b Centre for Applied Psychology, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia

Abstract This study focused on the psychological consequences of immigration. It was designed to assess the relative significance of a range of variables in predicting the ethnic identification, personal and ethnic self-esteem, and psychological health of members of a variety of immigrant groups to Australia. Of particular interest was the possible impact of the degree of cultural distance between the immigrant groups and the host country. The study included 510 adult participants from Hong Kong, Vietnam, Bosnia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. The results indicated that the main predictors of ethnic identification (i.e., immigrants’ identification with their culture of origin) were cultural distance, extent of friendship with Australians, the degree to which the immigrants were involved with their ethnic communities, and their ability to speak English. The immigrants’ level of ethnic identification was found to be the primary determinant of ethnic self-esteem whereas the main predictors of personal selfesteem were individual achievements and accomplishments. Finally, immigrant psychological health was mainly dependent upon personal self-esteem rather than ethnic self-esteem and/or ethnic identification. The findings are discussed in relation to theories and research on ethnic adaptation, in addition to social identity theory. r 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Ethnicity: identification; Self-esteem; Acculturation; Adaptation; Immigrant

*Corresponding author. School of Applied Psychology, Griffith University, PMB 50 Gold Coast Mail Centre, Qld. 9726, Australia. Tel.: +61-7-555-28878; fax: +61-7-555-28909. E-mail address: d.nesdale@mailbox.gu.edu.au (D. Nesdale). 0147-1767/03/$ - see front matter r 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 1 4 7 - 1 7 6 7 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 0 6 2 - 7

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1. Introduction The nature of the acculturation process and the identification of factors predictive of successful migrant cultural adaptation have been of considerable interest to researchers (e.g., Berry, 1984; Berry, Kim, Minde, & Mok, 1987; Berry, Kim, Power, Young, & Bujaki, 1989; Berry, Poortinga, Segall, & Dasen, 1992; Grossman, Wirt, & Davids, 1985; Koh & Bell, 1987; Liebkind, 1993, 1996; Nesdale, Rooney, & Smith, 1997; Nicassio, Solomon, Guest, & McCullough, 1986; Sam & Berry, 1993; Sands & Berry, 1993; Shisana & Celentano, 1985). In contrast, researchers have shown comparatively little interest in issues relating to immigrants’ ethnic identification (i.e., their identification with their culture of origin), beyond the development and maintenance of ethnic identity in immigrant adolescents, and the relationship between their ethnic identity and self-esteem, (e.g., Hurtado, Gurin, & Peng, 1994; Laperriere, Compere, Dkhissy, Dolce, & Fleurent, 1994; Liebkind, 1993; Phinney, 1989; Phinney & Alipuria, 1990; Phinney & Chavira, 1992; Phinney, Chavira, & Tate, 1992; Phinney, Chavira, & Williamson, 1992; Phinney, DuPont, Espinosa, Revill, & Sanders, 1994; Rumbaut, 1994; Saenz, Hwang, Aguirre, & Anderson, 1995; Spencer, Swanson, & Cunningham, 1992) and their acculturation strategies (e.g., Berry et al., 1989; Liebkind, 1996; Nesdale & Mak, 2000; van Oudenhoven & Eisses, 1998. This is somewhat surprising in view of the current influence of social identity theory (SIT; Tajfel & Turner, 1979) and its more recent elaboration, selfcategorisation theory (SCT, Turner, Hogg, Oakes, Reicher, & Wetherell, 1987) on research in social psychology. These theories, and the vast amount of research arising from them, have emphasised the importance to individuals of their identification with particular social groups, the effect it has on their levels of selfesteem, as well as the impact it has on their inter- and intragroup cognitions, attitudes, and behaviour (e.g., Hogg, Turner, Nascimento-Schulze, & Spriggs, 1986; Hurtado et al., 1994; Lemyre & Smith, 1985; Oakes & Turner, 1980). Despite this emphasis, however, social identity theorists have typically tended not to focus on the case of immigrants, apparently choosing to ignore the literature on ethnicity and acculturation. In turn, acculturation researchers appear to have paid comparatively little attention to the accumulating literature emphasising the significance of social identity processes to individuals and groups. In view of these considerations, the aim of the present study was to identify the main predictors of immigrants’ identification with their culture of origin (i.e., their ethnic identification) and to examine the extent to which their ethnic identification impacts upon their self-esteem and psychological health. Of particular interest was the extent to which these processes were influenced by the degree of cultural distance between the immigrant groups and the host country. A considerable amount of research has addressed the impact of cultural distance on a range of responses of both transient (e.g., students, expatriate workers) and permanent migrants, as well as refugee groups. Currently, the impact of cultural distance on immigrants remains to be clarified. For example, research has revealed that cultural distance is inversely related to intercultural competence (e.g., Redmond,

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2000; Triandis, 2000), sensitivity to life events (e.g., Tafarodi & Smith, 2001), intelligence test performance (e.g., Grubb & Ollendick, 1986), group performance (e.g., Thomas, 1999), socio-cultural adaptation (e.g., Searle & Ward, 1990; Ward & Kennedy, 1992, 1993a, b), and adjustment problems (e.g., Phalet & Hagendoorn, 1996. In contrast, research did not reveal a significant linkage between cultural distance and examination performance (e.g., Babiker, Cox, & Miller, 1980), identity conflict (e.g., Leong & Ward, 2000), intercultural interaction (e.g., Janssens, 1995), and psychological well-being (e.g., de Verthelyi, 1995; Ward & Kennedy, 1992, 1993a, b). Given this divergence in the findings, another aim of the present was to provide a further assessment of the impact of cultural distance on immigrants psychological health, as well as their ethnic identification processes. 1.1. Ethnic identification The first issue addressed in the present research concerned the delineation of the main factors which predict whether or not members of different ethnic groups seek to maintain their identification with their culture of origin or reject it in favour of assimilating with the host culture. There are several possible approaches to this issue. For example, one approach is to assume that for many new immigrants, the confrontation with the complexity and diversity of a new culture reinforces their natural tendency to adhere to what is known and familiar. According to this approach, immigrants’ tendencies towards identifying with their own ethnic group will naturally be enhanced by the immigration process, and that this tendency should increase to the extent to which there is a difference between their original culture and that of the host culture. That is, as cultural distance increases, it is plausible that immigrants would find it easier, less stressful, and/or more comforting to stay with their traditional attitudes, approaches and ways of doing things, rather than confronting and adapting to an alien environment. Alternatively, a second approach assumes that as cultural distance increases, it impacts upon immigrants’ relationships with members of the dominant cultural group as well as their own ethnic group, with the result that it influences their ethnic identification. Consistent with the first part of this proposition is research indicating that cultural distance is related to the level of acceptance or prejudice experienced by immigrants from members of the cultural majority—the greater the distance, the less the acceptance (e.g., Dijker, 1987; Ho, Niles, Penny, & Thomas, 1994; van Oudenhoven & Eisses, 1998). Not surprisingly, there is also evidence that physical dissimilarity militates against acceptance. Lalonde and Cameron (1993), for example, reported that more stigmatised groups such as Caribbean blacks and Chinese versus less stigmatised groups such as Greeks and Italians perceived themselves to be at a social disadvantage in the Canadian context. The implication of these findings is that, as cultural difference hence rejection by the dominant cultural group increases, immigrants might turn increasingly towards their ethnic group and their identification with it might increase. To assess the preceding possibilities, the present study assessed the extent to which immigrants’ ethnic identification was predicted by cultural distance, the level of

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involvement of the immigrants with their ethnic groups, and the level of acceptance of the immigrants by members of the dominant cultural group in the host country. The research was carried out in Australia and included immigrants from cultural backgrounds which show considerable variation in terms of their distance from the dominant Anglo-Australian culture. Thus, the study included members of immigrant groups from Vietnam, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and New Zealand—at face value, immigrants from countries which range from the most culturally distant to the most culturally similar to Australia. Whereas New Zealand and Australia are remarkably similar in terms of language, institutions, government, industries, arts, sport and recreation, reflecting their shared British heritage, countries such as Vietnam and PRC differ from Australia on most of the preceding characteristics. Interestingly, while countries such as Sri Lanka and Hong Kong have notable differences to Australia (e.g., language, food, industries, arts), they also share some similarities as a result of their prior British colonisation (e.g., government, judiciary, sports, language). In addition, however, it is important to note that these groups also encompass a considerable range in terms of their physical similarity to Anglo-Australians, including people with Asian (i.e., Hong Kong, PRC, Taiwan), Indian (Sri Lanka) and Caucasian (New Zealand) physical characteristics. 1.2. Self-esteem The second issue addressed in the present study concerned the identification of predictors of immigrant group members’ self-esteem, including the extent to which immigrants derive self-esteem from their identification with their original cultural group. While self-esteem (i.e., the sense of personal self-worth) is widely recognised as a central aspect of psychological functioning and is strongly related to many other variables, including general life satisfaction and psychological health (Crocker & Major, 1989; Diener, 1984; Nesdale et al., 1997; Taylor & Brown, 1988), little is known about the factors which contribute to the level of self-esteem of members of immigrant groups and how self-esteem impacts upon other psychological constructs, such as immigrant psychological health. In one of the few studies to address these issues, Nesdale et al. (1997) measured the ethnic identification, self-esteem and psychological health of a sample of Vietnamese immigrants to Australia and found evidence consistent with the predicted causal sequence. However, ethnic identification only accounted for a small proportion of the variance of self-esteem, although self-esteem accounted for a substantial proportion of the variance of immigrant psychological health. The low level of association between ethnic identity and self-esteem reported in that study was surprising, particularly in view of research with immigrant adolescents which has generally revealed positive associations between ethnic identity and self-esteem (e.g., Chavira & Phinney, 1991; Phinney & Chavira, 1992). Several factors might have contributed to the finding reported by Nesdale et al. (1997). One possibility is that ethnic identity and self-esteem are simply more strongly related in immigrant adolescents compared with adults, as part of the

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former’s pre-occupation with identity issues. Alternatively, it is possible that the ethnic identity—self-esteem relationship is low in a group such as the Vietnamese because, as Asian immigrants to Australia, they may have not been welcomed by all segments of the dominant Anglo-Australian group. A third possibility relates to the concept and measurement of self-esteem. Several writers (e.g., Crocker & Major, 1989; Rubin & Hewstone, 1998; Turner et al., 1987) have argued for the partitioning of self-esteem into social, or group-based self-esteem (i.e., the sense of self-worth derived from membership of a group, such as one’s cultural group), compared with the more commonly construed and measured personal self-esteem (i.e., the sense of self-worth derived from personal attributes and achievements). The particular relevance of this distinction is that the low ethnic identity—self-esteem relationship reported by Nesdale et al. (1997) might reflect the fact that those researchers used a measure of personal self-esteem (Rosenberg, 1965), rather than a measure of social or ethnic self-esteem (e.g., Luhtanen & Crocker, 1992). Accordingly, a second aim of the present paper was to tease apart the relationship between ethnic identification and self-esteem by measuring both the personal and ethnic self-esteem of the immigrants from diverse cultural backgrounds.

1.3. Psychological health The third issue addressed in the present study concerned the significance of personal and ethnic self-esteem, and other variables, in predicting the psychological health of immigrants. Based on earlier work (e.g., Crocker & Major, 1989; Diener, 1984; Nesdale et al., 1997; Taylor & Brown, 1988), it would be expected that personal self-esteem would be revealed to be a significant predictor of immigrant psychological health. In addition, if immigrants do derive self-esteem from their identification with their ethnic group, it would also be expected that ethnic self-esteem would be a significant predictor of immigrant psychological health. That is, consistent with SCT (Turner et al., 1987), since both personal and social self-esteem comprise two aspects of an individual’s total selfesteem, both might be revealed to be important sources of psychological health. Finally, it was simply unclear whether any of the other variables such as the immigrants’ relationship with members of the dominant versus their own cultural group would contribute to psychological health, beyond what they contributed to personal and/or social self-esteem. In sum, the aim of the proposed research was to assess the relative significance of a range of variables in predicting the levels of ethnic identification, personal and ethnic self-esteem, and the psychological health of members of a variety of immigrant groups to Australia. Importantly, the potential predictor variables included the distance between the cultural backgrounds of the immigrant groups and the dominant Anglo-Australian culture, the immigrants’ relationships with their ethnic communities and with the dominant cultural group, and the immigrants’ achievements in the host country.

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2. Method 2.1. Participants There was a total of 510 (49.4% male, 50.6% female) subjects in the present study, who were located using a variety of networking sources in four major Australian cities (Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Canberra). The sample was made up of 201 Hong Kong Chinese, 73 New Zealanders, 122 Vietnamese, 85 Bosnians, and 29 Sri Lankans, who ranged in age from 18 to 74 years, all of whom had been born overseas. Analysis of the bio-demographic data revealed that the largest groups of subjects were in the 20–29 (23.4%), 30–39 (33.2%), and 40–49 (30.7%) age ranges, with this pattern being repeated across the three ethnic groups. In terms of education, the largest groups of subjects had completed their junior certificate or Year 10 (18.2%), senior certificate or Year 12 (32.6%), or degree (17.6%), although more of the Vietnamese and New Zealand samples occurred in the first two groups, whereas more of the Hong Kong and Sri Lankan groups had completed a degree. The majority of Bosnian immigrants (55.2%) had completed Year 12. The largest group of subjects had been resident in Australia for 5–10 years (25.4%), with a further 19.3% having been resident for 10–20 years, this pattern being repeated over four of the ethnic groups, with 67.8% of Bosnians only having arrived in Australia within the previous year. Across all immigrants, the largest groups indicated that they spoke English fairly well (18.4%), quite well (21.9%), or very well (32.4%). Although virtually all of the New Zealand group fell in the latter category, 62.1% of the Bosnians indicated that they spoke only a little bit of English. In terms of their current employment, 26.6% of the sample indicated that they were students, 22.9% were in skilled/clerical positions, a further 15.2% were in semiprofessional jobs, while 9.2% were in unskilled jobs. 2.2. Measures A survey questionnaire was constructed that contained measures of the following constructs. 2.2.1. Ethnic identity This was measured using an ethnic identity scale developed by one of the authors (Nesdale et al., 1997). The conceptual basis of this scale was that an individual’s identification with his/her ethnic group would be revealed in the extent to which s/he preferred the traditional activities, approaches, and ways of doing things of the ethnic group. Accordingly, this scale includes nine statements that encompass liking for ethnic food, ethnic names, raising children in traditional ethnic ways, doing business with ethnic group members, ethnic literature, and so on. (e.g., ‘‘I like the way people from my ethnic group raise their children’’, ‘‘I prefer food to be prepared and served according to the traditional ways of my ethnic group’’.) Each item was

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responded to on a 7-point bi-polar scale. Pilot studies indicated that the scales were most informative when they simply used the words, Yes and No, but with differing font sizes to indicate strength of endorsement (i.e., NO no no? yes yes YES). The scale had a Cronbach alpha of 0.83. 2.2.2. Ethnic self-esteem This was measured using a suitably modified version of the private subscale of the Luhtanen and Crocker (1992) Collective Self-esteem Scale. Subjects responded to three items (e.g., ‘‘In general, I’m glad to be a member of the ethnic group I belong to’’) on 7-point bi-polar scales (NO–YES). The scale had a Cronbach alpha of 0.71. 2.3. Personal self-esteem This was measured using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965). This scale contains 10 items (5 positive, 5 negative) and is designed to measure global selfesteem or the general assessment that individuals make of themselves (e.g., ‘‘I feel that I have a number of good qualities’’, ‘‘All in all I am inclined to feel that I am a failure’’). Respondents indicated their strength of agreement to each item on 7-point bi-polar scales (NO–YES). The scale had a Cronbach alpha of 0.79. 2.4. Self-efficacy This was measured using five items (e.g., ‘‘When I make plans I am certain I can make them work’’) from the General Self-Efficacy Scale (Sherer et al., 1982). Subjects responded on 7-point bi-polar scales (NO–YES). The scale had a Cronbach alpha of 0.74. 2.5. Cultural difference from Australia To measure this variable, the subjects were asked to indicate on a 7-point bi-polar scale (Very similar to Australia’s–Very different to Australia’s), ‘‘how similar or different do you think your ethnic background is to the Anglo-Australian culture?’’ 2.6. Relationship with Australians To measure the relationship the immigrants had developed with members of the dominant Anglo-Australian community, the subjects were asked to indicate (a) the extent to which, ‘‘I feel accepted by Australians’’ (NO–YES), on a 7-point bi-polar scale, and (b) ‘‘how many close Australians friends do you have?’’ (None–Many), on a 5-point scale. 2.7. Involvement with ethnic group To assess their involvement with members of their ethnic group, subjects were asked to indicate on a 5-point bi-polar scale, ‘‘how many close ethnic group friends

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do you have?’’ (None–Many). In addition, ethnic involvement was assessed on three separate 7-point scales which inquired, ‘‘when you/need advice on family matters/ want help or support/want to relax and have fun/, who do you ask?’’ (Only Australians–Only members of my ethnic group). The latter scale had a Cronbach alpha of 0.72. 2.7.1. Psychological health Immigrants’ psychological health was measured on the 12 item General Health Questionnaire (Vieweg & Hedlund, 1983) with subjects responding to each item (e.g., ‘‘Have you recently been worrying a lot of the time?’’) on a 4-point scale (Not at all– Much more than usual). The scale had a Cronbach alpha of 0.86. 2.7.2. Demographics The questionnaire also included measures of age, gender, education, birthplace, years resident in Australia, English speaking ability (5-point scale; I don’t speak English–I speak English very well), and current occupation (scored on a 9-point scale; Unemployed–Professional). All the scales were translated into Chinese, Vietnamese and Bosnian (with backtranslation for confirmation) and both the English version and the appropriate ethnic language version appeared in the questionnaire addressed to the Chinese, Vietnamese and Bosnian groups. Sri Lankan and New Zealand subjects received only the English version. The questionnaires were administered by trained, coethnic interviewers in the homes of the respondents or at community centres.

3. Results 3.1. Intergroup comparisons Since preliminary analyses revealed an absence of gender effects, data on the 10 non-demographic variables were analysed in a one-way MANOVA (Ethnic group: Hong Kong, New Zealand, Vietnam, Bosnia, Sri Lanka). This analysis revealed a significant effect for ethnic group, F (40, 1878)=14.09, po0:001: A univariate oneway analysis was then carried out on each variable. Given that 10 analyses were to be carried out, the conventional significance level was partitioned (0.05/10) over the analyses in accordance with the Bonferroni correction and a conservative significance level of 0.005 was applied. Tukey’s HSD test was used to test the significance of comparison between cell means. The results of these analyses are reported in Table 1. As indicated in Table 1, the analyses revealed that there were significant differences between the ethnic groups on all but one variable—number of ethnic friends. On most of the remaining variables, the New Zealanders and, to a lesser extent, the Bosnians, were differentiated from the other ethnic groups (i.e., Sri Lankans, Hong Kong, Vietnamese) who, in turn, tended to provide largely similar responses. Thus, the New Zealanders claimed most cultural similarity to Australia,

D. Nesdale, A.S. Mak / International Journal of Intercultural Relations 27 (2003) 23–40 Table 1 ANOVA results on ethnic group comparisons on predictor variables Variable F df p Ethnic group means

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New Zealand Bosnia Sri Lanka Hong Kong Vietnam Culture difference Australian acceptance Australian friends Ethnic friends Ethnic involvement Ethnic identification Self-efficacy Ethnic self-esteem Personal self-esteem Psychological health 55.83 5.30 12.55 1.85 9.95 29.71 5.11 24.94 18.25 6.57 4/504 4/504 4/504 4/504 4/504 4/504 4/504 4/504 4/504 4/504 * * * n.s. * * * * * * 3.08a 5.87b 4.08c 3.84a 3.94a 3.50a 6.04b 6.15b 6.25c 3.13b 4.14b 5.17a 3.27abc 3.94a 3.91a 4.19b 5.54a 4.70a 5.65ab 2.79a 5.69c 5.55ab 3.83bc 4.48a 4.35ab 4.70cd 6.07b 6.03b 5.91bc 3.10b 5.65c 4.99a 3.13a 3.96a 4.55b 4.52bc 5.53a 5.97b 5.81b 3.01b 5.86c 5.31ab 2.95a 3.94a 4.58b 5.07d 5.71ab 5.75b 5.29a 3.03b

*po0:005: Entries not sharing a common subscript are significantly different.

Australian acceptance, Australian friends, self-efficacy, and personal self-esteem, as well as the lowest involvement and identification with their ethnic group. In contrast, the responses of the Vietnamese, Hong Kong and Sri Lankan immigrants tended to be the reverse of the New Zealanders on these variables. The variations to this pattern were that the New Zealanders, but not the Bosnians, were undifferentiated from the other groups in terms of their ethnic self-esteem and psychological health. 3.2. Ethnic identification To identify the predictor variables of the immigrants’ degree of ethnic identification, a multiple regression analysis was carried out which involved entering scores on several demographic and personal characteristics (age, gender, years resident in Australia, education, English ability, current job status, level of selfefficacy), perceived cultural difference to Australia, and the immigrants’ relationships with members of the dominant Anglo-Australian group (acceptance by Australians, number of Australian friends), and the immigrants’ relationships with their own ethnic community (number of ethnic friends, extent of ethnic involvement). Given the size of the sample and the number of possible predictor variables, the conventional alpha level was partitioned (0.05/15) and a more conservative alpha of 0.003 was adopted for each significance decision. The results of the hierarchical multiple regression are presented in Table 2. As indicated in this table, the regression equation accounted for 25% of the variance of immigrants’ ethnic identification, F (12, 497)=13.76, po0:001: The main predictors of ethnic identification were the degree to which immigrants were involved with their ethnic groups (beta=0.25), the immigrant’s inability to speak English

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Table 2 Results of multiple regression analyses of predictor variables on ethnic identification, ethnic self-esteem, personal self-esteem, and psychological health, showing standardised beta weights and regression statistics Predictor variables Criterion variables Ethnic identification Age Gender Australian resident Education Speak English Job status Self-efficacy Culture difference Australian acceptance Australian friends Ethnic friends Ethnic involvement Ethnic identification Ethnic self-esteem Personal self-esteem F df p R2 0.01 À0.01 0.06 0.06 À0.22* À0.02 0.11 0.19* À0.02 À0.11 0.15* 0.25* n.a. n.a. n.a. 13.76 12/497 o0.001 0.25 Ethnic self-esteem À0.04 0.03 0.09 0.00 0.15* 0.08 0.17* 0.05 0.10 0.09 À0.04 0.11 0.33* n.a. n.a. 12.41 13/496 o0.001 0.24 Personal self-esteem 0.01 À0.05 À0.02 0.14* 0.12 0.09 0.48* 0.00 0.08 0.11 0.04 0.02 À0.15* n.a. n.a. 31.04 13/496 o0.001 0.45 Psychological health À0.09 À0.01 0.09 0.00 À0.10 0.00 0.01 0.04 0.12 0.13 0.03 0.07 À0.07 0.03 0.28* 6.18 15/496 o0.001 0.18

*po0:003: n.a. Not analysed in this regression analysis.

(À0.22), the extent of cultural distance (0.19), and the number of ethnic friends (0.15). 3.3. Ethnic self-esteem To identify the predictors of immigrants’ ethnic self-esteem, a multiple regression analysis was carried out, involving the same variables as were entered in the previous analysis, with the addition of scores on the ethnic identification measure. As indicated in Table 2, the regression equation accounted for 24% of the variance of ethnic self-esteem F (13, 496)=12.41, po0:001: In this analysis, the major predictors of ethnic self-esteem were the immigrant’s ethnic identification (beta=0.33), their level of self-efficacy (0.17), and their ability to speak English (0.15). 3.4. Personal self-esteem To identify the predictor variables of personal self-esteem, the same variables were entered as in the previous analysis. As indicated in Table 2, this analysis revealed that

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the predictor variables accounted for 45% of the variance of personal self-esteem, F (13, 496)=31.04, po0:001: The major predictors of personal self-esteem were the immigrants’ self-efficacy (0.48), their lack of identification with their ethnic group (À0.15), and their level of education (0.14). 3.5. Psychological health To identify the predictors of immigrant’s psychological health, the same set of variables were again entered in the analysis, with the addition of scores on ethnic and personal self-esteem. As indicated in Table 2, this analysis revealed that the equation accounted for 18% of the variance of immigrants’ psychological health, F (15, 496)=6.18, po0:001: Personal self-esteem was the single significant predictor (beta=0.28) of immigrant psychological health.

4. Discussion Analysis of the data revealed a particularly interesting set of findings concerning the psychological impact of immigrating to a new country, from the perspective of members of ethnic groups who differed in their cultural distance from the dominant Anglo-Australian culture. 4.1. Intergroup comparisons In selecting immigrant groups for inclusion in the present study, the aim was to include groups from countries which show considerable variation in terms of their similarity to Australia’s culture. Consistent with this intention, the results indicated that the Vietnamese, Hong Kong and Sri Lankan immigrants considered that their cultural backgrounds were considerably more different to Australia’s than did members of the Bosnian group, who considered their culture to be significantly more different than did the New Zealand immigrants. More importantly, however, the results suggested that the cultural differences were reflected in immigrants’ responses on many of the other variables. For example, consistent with previous findings (e.g., Phalet & Hagendoorn, 1996; Ward & Kennedy, 1993a, b), the cultural differences appeared to be reflected in the immigrants’ relationship with the wider community. Thus, New Zealanders revealed most acceptance by Australians, and that they had more Australian friends, than did most of the other groups. Indeed, New Zealanders even revealed higher levels of selfefficacy and personal self-esteem than did most of the other groups. While these findings emphasise the significant impact of cultural distance on immigrants’ adaptation, it needs be recognised that the Hong Kong, Sri Lankan and Vietnamese groups are also more stigmatised in physical appearance (i.e., hair, skin color) compared with non-indigenous New Zealanders and Australians. While such physical differences may underlie a lack of acceptance by members of the dominant cultural group (Lalonde & Cameron, 1993), they might also serve to exacerbate the

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latter’s view that particular immigrant groups are more culturally different than is actually the case (Nesdale et al., 1997). The findings are also consistent with previous findings (e.g., Phalet & Hagendoorn, 1996) that increasing cultural distance encourages immigrants to remain ‘‘psychologically located’’ within their ethnic groups rather than exposing themselves to the people, ideas and behaviours of the wider community. Consistent with this are the results indicating that the Vietnamese and Hong Kong immigrants were significantly more involved with members of their own ethnic groups for advice, help and recreation, than were the New Zealand and Bosnian immigrants. In addition, the Hong Kong, Vietnamese and Sri Lankan people all revealed greater identification with their ethnic groups than did the New Zealanders and Bosnians. However, this pattern of ingroup identification was not paralleled by the immigrants’ sense of ethnic self-esteem—the Hong Kong, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan and New Zealand groups actually agreed in revealing more ethnic selfesteem than did the Bosnian group. Apparently, members of different immigrant groups can retain a similar sense of pride in their ethnic backgrounds without feeling the same need to have it influence all or most aspects of their lives in their new country. Finally, analysis of the immigrants’ psychological health scores revealed that their responses were not simply a reflection of their cultural dissimilarity to Australia. While the fewest psychological problems were revealed by the culturally most similar group, the New Zealanders, the most psychological problems were not displayed by the most culturally dissimilar immigrants. Instead, the most psychological problems were displayed by the immigrant group that was newest and had the lowest level of English—the Bosnians. These results suggest that an immigrant group’s early confrontations with a new culture can have a significant impact even for groups with cultures which are relatively similar to the new host culture. At the same time, it should also be recognised that the members of this group were refugees who had recently escaped the trauma of a civil war in their home country. 4.2. Ethnic identification One of the main aims of the present study was to specify the major factors which determine whether or not members of different immigrant groups seek to maintain their original ethnic identity in their new country. The results indicated that the major predictors of immigrant ethnic identification were the extent to which the immigrants involved themselves with their ethnic communities, the degree of cultural difference between the immigrants’ ethnic backgrounds and the host country, and the number of ethnic friends they had. In addition, ethnic identification increased as the immigrants’ facility with the English language decreased. Contrary to other results (e.g., Ho et al., 1994; Lalonde & Cameron, 1993) the present findings did not support the view that cultural distance would promote lack of acceptance by members of the dominant cultural group, and that this would

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facilitate increased immigrant ethnic identification. Instead, the present findings suggest that ethnic identification was influenced more by cultural distance, including language difficulties, prompting the immigrants to stay with their traditional ways and to mix with people like themselves. 4.3. Self-esteem Given the established significance of self-esteem in the effective psychological functioning of non-immigrants (e.g., Crocker & Major, 1989; Diener, 1984; Taylor & Brown, 1988), another of the main aims of the present study was to identify the major determinants of self-esteem in immigrants. However, in view of the recent partitioning of self-esteem into social or group-based versus personal self-esteem (e.g., Turner et al., 1987), the further aim was to attempt to differentiate the major predictors of ethnic versus personal self-esteem. In terms of ethnic self-esteem, level of ethnic identification was revealed to be the major predictor, as would be anticipated by SIT (Tajfel & Turner, 1979). Perhaps counter-intuitively, the findings revealed that the immigrants’ pride in their ethnic groups was also influenced by their abilities and accomplishments, including their facility with the English language, and their level of self-efficacy. This pattern of results indicates that pride in ethnic group membership depends on a number of considerations, of which level of ethnic identification is an important, but by no means, sole determinant. While the predominance of ethnic identification in the prediction of ethnic pride is straightforwardly consistent with SIT, the findings suggest that immigrants can also feel worthwhile as members of particular ethnic groups, to the extent that they feel they have achieved some success in the new country. While the success is personal, it seemingly also has implications for how immigrants feel about their status as ethnic group members, within the new host culture. In terms of personal self-esteem, the findings straightforwardly emphasised the importance of individual accomplishments and achievements. In short, the immigrants’ personal self-esteem was primarily predicted by their sense of selfefficacy and their level of education. Importantly, however, whereas ethnic identification was the major predictor of ethnic self-esteem, it was actually revealed to be a negative predictor of personal self-esteem. This finding suggests that, to some extent, ongoing adherence to the cultural values, beliefs and behaviours of their ethnic group is actually an impediment to immigrants’ developing a strong sense of personal self-worth in the new country. This finding is noteworthy for it serves to question the acculturation attitudes adopted by most immigrants. In short, previous research has revealed that the members of most immigrant groups emphasise the importance of an integration strategy—that is, living according to the standards and values of the host country, as well as their ethnic group (e.g., Nesdale & Mak, 2000). Assuming that immigrants actually seek to live according to both attitudes, the present findings suggest that the strategy would ultimately seem to be unhelpful, at least in terms of assisting the full development of the personal sense of self-worth of immigrants.

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4.4. Psychological health The final objective of the present research was to identify the predictors of immigrants’ psychological health, with particular attention addressed to the influence exerted by ethnic and personal self-esteem. The findings revealed that when all variables were entered, personal self-esteem emerged as the single significant predictor of psychological health. The greater the personal self-esteem, the less psychological distress was experienced by the immigrants. Several implications follow from these findings. First, the present findings are consistent with the view that ethnic identification is not a direct predictor of immigrant psychological health (Nesdale et al., 1997). Instead, the importance of ethnic identification may lie in its influence on other variables that impact on immigrant psychological health (e.g., Grossman et al., 1985) or equip the immigrant with resources to respond to stressors such as prejudice and discrimination (e.g., Chavira & Phinney, 1991; Liebkind, 1993; Sue & Sue, 1990). However, these contributions remain to be determined in future research. Second, the present findings suggest that the importance of ethnic self-esteem lies elsewhere than in the prediction of immigrants’ psychological health. Consistent with SIT, the present research makes clear that ethnic pride is important to immigrants and that they derive pride from their identification with their ethnic group. Further, numerous studies of adolescents and adults have revealed that these social identity processes have important consequences. For example, ingroup members are perceived to be similar and are subject to positive bias, while outgroup members are perceived to be different and to possess less favourable qualities, and may be discriminated against (see reviews by Brown, 1995; Hogg & Abrams, 1988). However, the present research reveals that, as immigrants to a new country, there are other issues of concern to them, relating to more day-to-day matters (e.g., jobs, speaking English, being effective). One inference to be drawn may be that issues of ethnic pride are likely to be of considerably greater moment when group members are confronted with direct threats to their well-being, because of their membership of a particular ethnic group (Stephan, Ybarra, Martinez, Schwarzwald, & Tur-Kaspa, 1998). Third, while the present findings provide further confirmation of the importance of personal self-esteem in the psychological health of immigrants (Nesdale et al., 1997), as well as members of the dominant cultural group (Crocker & Major, 1989; Diener, 1984; Taylor & Brown, 1988), the fact that only 18% of the variance of the immigrants’ psychological health was accounted for in the present study indicates that there are other important contributors to immigrants’ psychological health which remain to be identified. Given the significance accorded to personal versus ethnic self-esteem in the present findings, and the fact that the study encompassed many of the important group-based variables, the factors to be identified will presumably reflect issues of more individual rather than group-based concern to immigrants (e.g., personal relationships, job stress).

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5. Conclusions The present research provides further important insights into the psychological impact on members of different ethnic groups of their immigration to a new country. Of particular significance is the extent to which the immigrants’ cultural background differs from the culture of the host country and the effect this has upon them. Contrary to what might be expected, cultural distance does not appear to exert its influence via lack of acceptance by members of the dominant cultural group. Instead, the findings suggest that cultural distance prompts immigrants to live more within, and according to the traditional ways of, their ethnic communities (e.g., Phalet & Hagendoorn, 1996). In addition, the findings also revealed major differences, as well as some overlap, in the predictors of ethnic and personal self-esteem. Whereas personal self-esteem was primarily determined by the immigrants’ accomplishments and achievements (e.g., speaking English, selfefficacy), the major determinant of their ethnic self-esteem was their identification with their ethnic group, although their personal achievements (i.e., speaking English, self-efficacy), were also significant predictors. Finally, the findings indicated that personal, but not ethnic self-esteem, was the single major predictor of immigrant psychological health. Together, the findings confirm that ethnic and personal selfesteem are both psychologically important to immigrants but that they apparently serve different functions. Additional research is needed to continue the task of teasing these apart.

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