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Arab-Americans’ Acculturation and Depression Proposal

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Updated: May 26th, 2020


Acculturation is often associated with a wide range of depressive symptoms that are characteristic of mild mental disorders. It refers to “a process of change on both the individual and group level, which results from contact between a minority and a dominant culture” (Aprahamian, Kaplan, Windham, Sutter &Visser, 2011). Acculturation forces immigrant communities to change their values, beliefs, and attitudes to conform to those of the dominant culture in the host country. Immigrants experience cultural transition, which comes with anxiety and stress. It has been found that acculturation has a greater impact on the immigrants’ mental health than the disturbance caused by migration. In particular, aspects of acculturation, such as the adaptation mechanisms employed by the immigrants, have a big impact on their mental health.

Researchers have examined the effect of acculturation on the mental health of immigrants. Arab-Americans belong to a minority ethnic group that has been affected by acculturation. Currently, about 3.5 million people of Arab descent live in the United States (Jadalla & Lee, 2012). They share the same language (Arabic), beliefs, and cultural values. They immigrated into America in the mid 19th Century, with the majority of them settling in Michigan, California, and New York (Phinney, Horenczyk, Liebkind & Vedder, 2001).

The immigrants, since 9/11, are often victims of discrimination due to religious extremism and terrorism activities perpetrated by their compatriots. They suffer from negative stereotypes and prejudice, which prevents them from being fully integrated into American society. Moreover, recent political upheavals, including the ‘Arab Spring,’ are major sources of distress among Arab-Americans.

Despite being vulnerable to negative stereotyping, not many studies have examined the effect of acculturation on the mental health of Arab immigrants. Aprahamian et al. (2011) examined the correlation between acculturation among Arab immigrants and their mental health using a sample of 1,016 participants. The study found that “religion, discrimination experiences, and age” affect the mental health of Arab-Americans (p. 88). This implies that social prejudice and discrimination have negative consequences on the mental health of this group. On their part, Jadalla and Lee (2012) found that the adoption of the dominant American culture among Arab immigrants leads to alcohol use, improved physical well-being, and poor mental health.

Some of the predictors of mental health among Arab immigrants are “income level, age, gender, length of time in the US, and discrimination experiences” (Berry, 2001, p. 621). Ethnic minorities in the United States, including the Arabs, are prone to discrimination, which increases depression and affects their acculturation and integration into American society. Besides discrimination, the age of an immigrant determines his/her mental health during the acculturation process. Poor mental health is common among young immigrants (Aprahamian et al., 2011). This has been attributed to changing parental perspectives due to acculturation (Phinney, HorenczykLiebkind & Vedder, 2001). Nevertheless, some studies have found a relationship between good mental health and migration at a younger age because it exposes children to the host culture and language early in life (Alati, Najman, Shuttlewoood, Williams & Bor, 2003).

From the analysis, it is evident that research has examined the impact of acculturation on Arab immigrants. However, no study has investigated specific aspects of mental health, such as depression, among Arab-Americans in California. The proposed study will investigate the relationship between depression and acculturation among Arab-Americans. In particular, this study will determine the aspects of acculturation that cause depression and mental health disorders in this ethnic group. In this regard, the study will measure acculturation and depressive symptoms in this ethnic group using validated assessment tools.

Study Design

This research will use an exploratory study design. It will involve the use of survey instruments to find out the relationship between acculturation and depression symptoms among Arab-Americans living in Orange County, California. The study will seek to answer the following research question: what is the relationship between acculturation and depression among Arab-Americans?

Study Population

The study participants will involve adult Arab-Americans in Orange County, California, between 18 to 60 years of age, excluding people who live in group homes, homeless people, seasonal migrants, and those who have a history of depression before immigrating to the US. The countries of origin will include Iran, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine, among others. Individuals from these countries and living in eligible households will be included in the study.

These inclusion criteria are consistent with the major aims of this research. Since the level of acculturation depends on age and length of stay in the host country, only individuals born in the Arab countries will be included in the study. Studies indicate that acculturation is partly dependent on social contexts (Boughton & Street, 2007). In other words, social settings influence acculturation. For instance, the host culture’s attitude towards immigrants can influence their willingness to interact and learn native values and practices.

Since Orange County, which is the focus of this study, has one of the highest populations of Arab-Americans in the United States, their acculturation experience must be more profound than the assimilation of those living in other places. Additionally, immigrants residing in small urban areas may develop different attitudes compared to those living in big metropolitan cities. These factors may produce confounding effects, and thus, the study area for this research will be limited to Orange County. Moreover, only Arab-Americans aged between 18 and 60 will participate in this study. The minimal age of 18 will help the researcher to overcome the challenges associated with informed consent for minors.

A sample of 614 individuals will participate in this study. Out of this sample (n = 614), 351 will be females and 263 males. Their characteristics will be as follows: 193 people have to be U.S. citizens by birth, 159 came to the country at a young age (below 12 years), and 79 immigrated when aged between 13 and 18. Another 183 immigrants came into the country as adults (19 and above).

The survey will record the demographic characteristics of the participants. With respect to religion, 435 immigrants will be Muslims, while 179 will be Christians. Two-thirds of the participants should possess post-secondary education, while the remainder must have a high school diploma. The survey will investigate married people (156), single ones (206), and widowed individuals (252). With regard to country of origin, participants will be drawn from a wide range of countries, including Syria (98), Saudi Arabia (76), Yemen (56), Palestine (71), Pakistan (148), the UAE (152), and Iran (13). Their incomes will range between $35,000 and $85,000 per household.



The Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K-6), which is used to measure depression, comprises of six self-report questions that probe “anxiety and depressive symptoms” experienced by an individual over a period of one month (Andrews & Slade, 2001, p. 495). The scale reveals depressive symptoms, which indicate a person’s mental health status.

The responses to the six questions are structured on a five-item scale. The items include none, a little, sometimes, most times, and every time, and have scores ranging from 1 to 5. One can score between 6 (no depression) and 30 (very depressed). Generally, individuals who score below 11 have minimal distress and, therefore, have good mental health (Kessler et al., 2003). On the other hand, individuals with a score of between 12 and 19 have mild mental problems and can benefit from treatment interventions. In contrast, those who score between 20 and 30 have severe mental conditions, such as mood and anxiety disorders, and thus, need professional help (Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, 2005).


As aforementioned, the study population for this research will comprise of Arab-American adults (18-60 years) residing in households within Orange County, California. The study will use the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K-6) to measure depression in the participants. To measure acculturation, items contained in reliable and validated instruments, such as the Detroit Arab American Study (DAAS), will be used (Kosic, 2002). A pilot study will be conducted prior to the actual research to evaluate the relevance of DAAS acculturation questions to this research. The acculturation items will be used along with the Marin and Marin Scale, which has been validated as a tool for assessing the degree of acculturation in immigrant communities.

For the pilot study, a sample of 42 immigrants (Arab-Americans) in Orange County will be selected through convenience sampling. The researcher will then use the two instruments (DAAS questions and the Marin and Marin Scale) to measure the pilot sample’s level of acculturation. Based on the participant’s response to each DAAS question, the level of acculturation will be represented as either zero or one. A score of one will mean that a person is highly acculturated, while zero will represent low acculturation. An average acculturation score will be determined from the measurements recorded using the two scales.

Correlation analysis will be done to determine the relationship between the DAAS questions and the Marin and Marin Scale. Reliability analysis will also be done on the DAAS items to determine the level of internal consistency. A strong consistency measure will help ascertain the reliability and validity of this instrument in measuring acculturation. An immigrant population that is acculturated to a greater degree will score higher on the DAAS instrument. The instrument will measure the participants’ media and language use and intercultural relations.

Moreover, based on the DAAS discrimination items, the researcher will also explore the respondents’ discrimination experiences. In particular, the five discrimination items that the study will investigate will include “verbal abuse, threatening words or gestures, vandalism, physical assault, and loss of employment” (Aprahamian et al., 2011). As already indicated, based on their responses, the discrimination experiences will be scored as either one (encountered unfair treatment) or zero (has not experienced any discrimination). The mean score to the five items will give the average discrimination score. Other variables, including religion, family income, and educational level, will be scored between the values of one and six.

The discrimination scores will indicate the race relations between the immigrants and the natives. A high discrimination score will indicate that a large number of Arab-Americans have been unfairly treated within the past four weeks. As stated before, social prejudice against Arab-Americans relates to social prejudice because they are associated with terrorism and religious extremism. Thus, racial discrimination targeting Arab-Americans can lead to social exclusion, which will affect their participation in civic activities.


Item Quantity/Units Cost per Item Total Amount
  1. DAAS and Marin and Marin Scale
  2. Pens, marker pens
  3. Notebooks
  4. Interviewing room, chairs, and tables
20×614 = 12280
2.50×20 = 50
14×100 = 1400
10×300 = 3000
Internet charges $1500 $1500
Telephone Costs $2000 $2000
Photocopies and journals $2500 $2500
Traveling cost $2000 $2000
Miscellaneous $800 $800
Interviewing costs (payment to interviewers) $15000 $15000
Total $40530




Globalization has inarguably brought together people from different places. Due to intercultural interaction, people’s traditions and values are constantly changing. Physical interactions among people of different cultures, which occur during immigration, result in acculturation. It is through acculturation that immigrant groups adopt the values and traditions of the dominant host culture. Nevertheless, often, such intercultural interactions elicit feelings of oppression and discrimination, as the immigrants strive to adjust to the new life and realize their dreams. This causes depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.

This exploratory study will examine the relationship between acculturation and depressive symptoms. The participants will be drawn from adult Arab-Americans living in Orange County, California. The Kessler Psychological Distress Scale will be used to measure depression, while two other instruments, the DAAS items, and the Marin and Marin Scale will measure the degree of acculturation in this population. The results of this study will have implications for mental health counseling for Arab-Americans and other minority ethnic groups.


Alati, R., Najman, J. M., Shuttlewoood, G. J., Williams, G. M., & Bor, W. (2003). Changes in mental health status amongst children of migrants to Australia: A longitudinal study. Sociology of Health of an Illness, 25(4), 866-888. Web.

Andrews, G. & Slade, T. (2001). Interpreting scores of the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). Australian & New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 25(6), 494-497. Web.

Aprahamian, M., Kaplan, D., Windham, A., Sutter, J. &Visser, J. (2011). The Relationship between Acculturation and Mental Health of Arab Americans. Joumal of Metital Health Counseling, 33(1), 80-92. Web.

Berry, J. W. (2001). A psychology of immigration. Journal of Social Issues, 57(1), 615-631. Web.

Boughton, S. & Street, H. (2007). Integrated review of the social and psychological gender differences in depression. Australian Psychologist, 42(2), 187—197. Web.

Jadalla, A. & Lee, J. (2012). The Relationship Between Acculturation and General Health of Arab Americans. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 23(2), 160-165. Web.

Kessler, R. C., Barker, P. R., Colpe, L. J., Epstein, J. F., Gfroerer, J. C. & Hiripi, E. (2003). Screening for Serious Mental Illness in the General Population. Archives of General Psychiatry, 60(2), 184-189. Web.

Kosic, A. (2002). Acculturation attitudes, need for cognitive closure, and adaptation of immigrants. The Journal of Social Psychology, 142(2), 179-201. Web.

Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. (2005). Depression. Web.

Phinney, J. S., Horenczyk, G., Liebkind, K. & Vedder, P. (2001). Ethnic identity, immigration, and well-being: An interactional perspective. Journal of Social Issues, 57(7), 493—510. Web.

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