Cultural Variables Influencing Behavior

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Many variables influence the behavior of individuals within a culture (Sanchez-Boyce, 1993). The manner in which services are provided may be influenced by general cultural practices in combination with variables unique to the individual (Anderson, 1994; Payne, 1995), Thus, professionals must understand not only general characteristics of various cultural groups, but also the variables that interact to make each student and family unique within that cultural group. The following variables are important to consider: • • • • • • • • • • • • Educational level Languages spoken Length of residence in an area Country of birth (immigrant vs. native born) Urban vs. rural background Individual choice within the intrapersonal realm (e.g., idiosyncratic behavior) Socioeconomic status/upward class mobility Age and gender Religious beliefs and their impact on daily life activities Neighborhood of residence and peer group Degree of acculturation into mainstream American life Generational membership (first, second, third generation)

If the family immigrated to the United States, reasons for this immigration should be considered. It is also important to find out about generational patterns of immigration. To what extent are other relatives living in close proximity? To what extent are members of a cultural group marrying those from different ethnic backgrounds? Anderson and Fenichel (1989, p. 89) stated that cultural sensitivity implies “knowledge that cultural differences as well as similarities exist” and that this awareness helps the professional determine an appropriate course of action. CONCLUSION When members of a cultural group hold stereotypes about members of other cultural groups, the potential for misunderstanding is great. Professionals must be culturally sensitive and realize that great variation exists within the general cultural framework of each group. Source: Rosberry-McKibbin, Celeste, Multicultural Students With...
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