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Where do I belong? The effects of uncertainty-identity on acculturation outcomes for migrants in Germany

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Acculturation, belongingness and identity for migrants in Germany

EU-funded researchers investigated migrant, host and intergenerational perspectives regarding psychological and sociocultural adaptation of migrants and on attitudes about integration, feelings of belongingness and group affiliation. Their work included development of a theoretical framework addressing the bidirectional nature of the acculturation process.

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The project BELONGINGNESS (Where do I belong? The effects of uncertainty-identity on acculturation outcomes for migrants in Germany) integrated acculturation theory and uncertainty-identity theory to investigate the possible consequences of uncertainty about oneself and belongingness. Research efforts targeted a better understanding of when and where conflicts and social tensions arise between host members and migrants as well as between generations, and what intervening variables impact on positive outcomes (e.g. social cohesion and harmony). Overall, the aim was to better understand why some migrants maladapt to the host society and choose to identify with a subgroup as a way to reduce uncertainty and oppose the host society. The first of three project phases explored the meaning of integration in the German context from the perspectives of migrants and majority members. Following, BELONGINGNESS carried out a large-scale quantitative survey of majority members (Germans) and minority members (migrants in a broader sense). Sample sizes were 603 individuals representing the majority, an ethnic sample of 135 (mixed ethnicities, mainly originating from Turkey, eastern European countries and the Middle East) and a bicultural sample of 241 (similar composition to the ethnic sample, including participants of Turkish, eastern European, Latin American and western European descent). Studies assessed general feelings of national orientation (assimilation), ethnic orientation (separation), multicultural orientation (integration), and belongingness, feeling secure and feeling connected to Germans (for migrants). Other variables of interest were well-being measures such as flourishing, which speaks to self-perceived success in important life areas (e.g. relationships, self-esteem, optimism and purpose). Preliminary results indicate a relationship between a multicultural orientation and flourishing for native Germans and migrants as well as Germans with a migration background. One important finding is that the feeling of belonging (over and above multicultural orientation) is a predictor of flourishing and sociocultural competence in the bicultural sample and even stronger in the ethnic sample. The EU continues to face a wide array of challenges with respect to the unabated influx of refugees in recent years. BELONGINGNESS findings contribute to efforts to resolve intercultural conflicts and the mechanism behind hostile attitudes. They can also by employed by host members, migrants and policymakers to work towards social cohesion.


Acculturation, belongingness, identity, migrants, multicultural orientation

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