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Nathalie Sochurek

Bicultural self-efficacy, identity invalidation and mental health of second generation migrants: a mixed-method approach under consideration of perspectives from the psychological humanities

Migration to Germany has increased steadily over the last decades. Today, about one in every four germans (21.2 million people) has a migration background (Migrationshintergrund). This number includes foreign citizens and individuals who personally migrated, but also German citizens with no migration experience, where at least one parent was born without German citizenship. In fact, over 7.5 million of those named as having a migration background, have no personal migration experience. Many of these are the children of migrants, the so-called "second generation."

Children of immigrants grow up in two cultures simultaneously. At home, they are raised within the cultural context that their parents grew up in, in public, they grow up within the cultural context of the host society. This literature calls this "biculturalism." This exposure to two cultures leads to bicultural individuals being able to engage in cultural frame switching, which means that they alter their behavior (consciously or unconsciously) to fit within the cultural framework they are engaging in. Growing up bicultural/bilingual has been associated with many cognitive benefits such as higher adaptability or creativity. However, several difficulties can arise from growing up in two cultures such as conflicting perceptions of family norms, gender roles, etc. In addition, being bicultural means having your feet in two worlds, never being completely one or the other. This can lead to rejection by the migrant and/or host culture.

There are many theories about second-culture acquisition in migrant communities which include concepts such as integration, assimilation, marginalization, fusion, etc. The model this dissertation focuses on is the alternation model of second-culture acquisition. The idea behind this model is that an individual can understand and interact within two cultures. It also states that an individual can not only engage in two cultures, depending on the social context but can identify or feel a sense of belonging to both cultures. In essence, the individual can freely alter their behavior, to cohesively engage within either context. However, to do so, the individual needs to develop what is called "bicultural competence." This has been found to be a protective measure against acculturation stress and its associated mental health issues including stress, anxiety, or decreased psychological well- being. A factor that is associated with one's ability to develop bicultural competence is identity development.

The focus of this dissertation, therefore, is an investigation of bicultural competence/identity in second generation migrants in relation to mental health. A mixed-methodology approach situated within the "psychological humanities" will be applied to answer the research questions. Within this framework, it is argued that psychological phenomena should not be investigated in isolation, but rather in correlation to external social factors. As such it will investigate and question concepts such as "culture" or "identity" from the perspective of the subjects using classical ethnographic methods from the field of anthropology. In addition, it will also make use of quantitative psychological methods to investigate correlations between the concepts. The aim is not only to discover the relationships and points of contact between bicultural competence/identity and mental health, but also to gain a deep understanding of the mechanisms behind them.


Nathalie Sochurek studied cultural anthropology at Western Washington University in the USA. Afterward, she completed her Master’s degree in cultural anthropology at the University of Hamburg in Germany. During this time, she completed an internship and consequently worked as a research assistant for the Research Group on Migration and Psychosocial Health (MiPH) at the Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf. Since January 2021, she has been the recipient of a Ph.D. scholarship from the Lübeck Centre for Cultural Studies & Research (ZKFL) and is investigating the mental health of bicultural individuals in Germany using mixed-methodologies from both anthropology and psychology. Her PhD project is supervised by Prof. Dr. Lisa Malich (Institut für Medizingeschichte und Wissenschaftsforschung - Universität zu Lübeck) and Prof. Dr. Mike Mösko (MiPH - Universität Hamburg).