Rethinking Cross-Cultural Adaptability Using Behavioral Developmental Theory: An Analysis of Different Migrant Behaviors

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Abstract

The rate of international migration has reached unprecedented levels over the past few decades (Schwartz, Unger, Zamboanga, & Szapocznik, 2010). According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of migrants worldwide was 244 million in 2015. Current literature in cross-cultural adaptability describes acculturation as a 4-phase process, namely honeymoon, crisis, adjustment, and biculturalism (Sawyer, 2012). This approach characterizes all migrants equally, regardless of the type of migrant. This approach however is missing other factors such as an individual’s developmental stage, needs, interests, and exposed/reinforcing memes. Orientations of these characteristics can vary drastically from one immigrant to another, and play an important role in acculturation outcomes. For a successful transition, immigrants and natives alike need to form successful relationships, while immigrants discover how systems work in the new country, and learn how to pursue their goals using the new resources in their new environment. These adaptive behaviors displayed by immigrants and natives are analyzed using stage theory, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, interests, and memes. In this article, we explore why some individuals and groups adapt better than others. A low-acculturated immigrant operates at a lower stage, may have been and continue to be exposed to memes that are less diverse, have lower needs, and choose more traditional careers. A highly acculturated immigrant operates at a higher stage, may be exposed to more diverse memes, have higher needs and choose more nontraditional careers. Through this analysis, we hope to contribute to a better understanding of immigration processes of different immigrants.

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