A study of the acculturation experiences of Puerto Rican migrant women: Manifestations and meaning making process

Date of Completion

January 2009


Anthropology, Cultural|Social Work|Women's Studies|Hispanic American Studies




Puerto Rican women's experiences of acculturation and the impact of this process in their lives are not well known or understood. Although Puerto Rican women have been included in acculturation studies with other Latina immigrants, the experiences of Puerto Rican migrant women merit special attention and study due to the socio-political history of the Island with the United States (Trias-Monge, 1997). Unlike other Latina migrant women, Puerto Rican migrant women are American citizens and have likely had exposure to the mainland culture throughout their lives. As migrants, they can travel with ease between the mainland and the Island, thus continuing their active exposure to and involvement in both cultures. Due to this socio-political reality, which is unique to Puerto Ricans, their process of acculturation requires a focused and independent analysis separate from other Latino immigrants. ^ A qualitative research design was used to document and examine how the acculturation process was experienced by Puerto Rican migrant women and what meaning and impact this experience has had in their lives. A convenience sample of a 112 Puerto Rican women responded to the Psychological Acculturation Scale (PAS), a case finding tool, to obtain a phenomenological measure of current levels of acculturation (Tropp, et al., 1999). From this sample, 30 women representing different levels of acculturation volunteered to participate in individual, face-to-face intensive interviews. The focus of these interviews was on the respondents' life-history, where an in-depth reconstruction of each woman's experiences of pre-migration, migration, and present life was obtained. ^ The process of acculturation of these particular women led to the formulation of a theoretical framework to understand their experiences. Five principles underlying this process emerged from the analysis of the data. New acculturation levels are proposed to better understand the phenomenological attachment to culture in this particular group. ^ Results of this study provide social workers a better understanding of the complexities, impact and meaning of the acculturation experience for Puerto Rican migrant women. This knowledge will enhance social workers' awareness and sensitivity when working with Puerto Rican women and will assist social workers in the further development of culturally informed, strengths-based prevention and treatment approaches that are responsive to the unique needs and characteristics of this population. ^