Acculturation among Indian immigrants: A study of ethnic identification and mate-selection

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Child and Family Studies


Norma J. Burgess


India, Immigrants, Asian Indians, Acculturation, Ethnic identification, Mate-selection

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Race and Ethnicity | Sociology of Culture


This research examines the process of acculturation among Asian Indians. Acculturation is estimated based on shifts in attitudes and values related to ethnic identity, marriage and mate selection made by Indian immigrants. The specific goal of this study is to find out the preferred mode of adaptation (Indian identified, bicultural, western identified or alienated identification) made by Asian Indians. Additionally, the study will examine the cross-cultural and intergenerational continuity in attitudes and practices related to marriage and mate selection process. Subjects for the study were selected from New Delhi, India and Edison, New Jersey. The study sampled 45 fathers, 45 mothers, 45 sons and 45 daughters from New Delhi, India. In the United States 35 fathers, 37 mothers, 28 sons and 27 daughters participated in the study. Subjects from the two countries were matched on age; socio-economic status, religion, large cosmopolitan residence, and all belonged to intact nuclear or extended families. All the immigrant subjects had permanent residence status in USA or had been naturalized US citizens. Data on ethnic identification were collected using a modified version of the Suinn-Lew Asian self-identity acculturation scale. Four dimensions of ethnic identification were measured. These were (a) ethnic identification based on external aspects of ethnicity, (b) ethnic identification based on values, attitudes and practices, (c) ethnic identification based on behavioral competencies, and (d) ethnic identification based on self-ratings. Information on attitudes and values related to mate selection and marriage was collected using a questionnaire constructed specifically for the study. Non-parametric analysis was used for the data.

The study shows that children in the United States have adopted bicultural identities on all four measures of ethnic identification. Children in India were dominantly Indian identified, however there was a strong indication of bicultural identity among children in India. Parents who have lived in USA for 20 years or more dominantly emerged as bicultural on external aspects of ethnic identification and in terms of their values and behavioral competencies. Parents in India while mostly Indian-identified, indicated a strong shift towards bicultural identification in terms of their values and behavioral competencies. Thus, Asian Indians in India and USA are moving towards bicultural identities. Among parents in both the countries attitudes and values related to marriage and mate selection resembled traditional Hindu values with some shifts towards western values. Children in India and USA indicate a stronger bias towards western values. The bias was more pervasive among the immigrant children.

Additionally, several issues affecting family life of Indian immigrants is proposed for future research.


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