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Women's acculturation to Canada : uncertainty's role



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This thesis investigated the relationship between subjective uncertainty, threat, and psychological and behavioural acculturation from the perspective of well-educated Canadian women who emigrated from Asia. In the first study, 153 women completed a questionnaire. These women lived in Canada for an average of 17 years, and were proficient in English. In the second study, in-depth qualitative interviews with three women who scored high and three women who scored low on the cultural uncertainty scale in the first study illustrated how women describe uncertainty in their lives. Subjective uncertainty reduction theory (SURT) posits that higher uncertainty leads to stronger group identification. However, Study 1 and Study 2 contradicted SURT, in that higher certainty was related to stronger cultural and Canadian identities. Women in this research identified strongly with their cultural group and as Canadians, they reported low levels of uncertainty, and they did not feel very threatened. Women’s stories from Study 2 illustrate these findings. Moreover, threat and uncertainty were not related, suggesting that they are two conceptually different constructs. In Study 1, uncertainty and threat significantly contributed to the prediction of women’s strength of social identifications after controlling for background variables, providing support for social identity theory. As well, Study 1 and Study 2 found support for the bidimensional approach to acculturation, remooring of cultural identity, and the compatibility of women’s cultural and Canadian identities. These findings are consistent with past research, and suggest that women had very secure cultural and Canadian identities. The six interviews demonstrated the breadth and idiosyncratic nature of women’s experiences. However, several themes revealed that social identifications served three functions for women: enhanced self-esteem, ingroup cooperation and cohesion, and social interactions. Whether these motives are derivatives of subjective uncertainty needs further investigation. Taken together, these results suggest that SURT may be more applicable as a theory of adaptation, in that the initial adjustment period may induce high uncertainty and insecure social identifications. More broadly, the findings suggest continued application of theory to real-life settings is critical to the investigation of the motivational dynamics of identity choice and maintenance.



restrospective storytelling, interpretative phenomenological analysis, sequential regression analysis, bidimensional approach to acculturation, remooring cultural identity, immigrant women



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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