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Importance of Culture and Diversity in Psychology

The increasing cultural diversity in the United States has provided the need and importance for a multicultural perspective, especially in the field of psychology. The United States of America is popularly known as a ‘melting pot’ with a “foreign-born population of about thirty million” in which in about 10% of the citizens have an “immigrant background” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000), as a result of “the greatest migration in history” since the year 1990 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security). Families and children belonging to ethnic communities are often challenged by the psychological adjustments they are required to make to the social environments while valuing and maintaining their heritage and cultures. Additionally, they are also required to learn the new language and adapt to the new society and culture, which puts a double burden on them.

The importance of cultural knowledge and diversity in psychology can be gauged from the fact that “no adequate understanding of a particular individual may be attained apart from an understanding of a larger context — family or culture, respectively — that shapes that person” (Gushue & Sciarra, 1995). Immigrant families who co-exist with distinct communities and traditions may have several acculturation issues and problems adjusting to the different cultures. This inability to adapt to the “dominant host culture” due to the primary changes in “beliefs, values, and behaviour that result from contact with the new culture” (Tsai-Chae & Nagata, 2008) results in “dissonant acculturation”, whereby “the first and second generations learn the ways of American society at different rates” (Tsai-Chae & Nagata, 2008). The field of psychology enables professionals to understand the “intra and interpersonal cultural dynamics, norms, and values” of individuals from distinct cultures and communities so that they are able to ...