Bicultural tensions

By and large, families of Arabic speaking backgrounds adhere to values, beliefs and practices akin to collectivist cultures. Consequently, the identity of children is framed by relationships with members of their immediate family, their extended family and individuals who are part of a broader clan or community network.

Our understanding of the individual in modern Western societies has little point of reference in the Arab culture’s understanding and value on the individual as part of a collective, that of the family or the clan. Consequently, the individual’s personal preferences and interests take secondary place to the family’s collective preferences and interests. The value of children’s autonomy, considered an important part of children’s development in Australia, has less significance in Arabic speaking families.

The stress of acculturation and the negotiation of realities and identities across both cultures can impact family members at different stages and to varying degrees. The transition across values of two different cultures affects family dynamics, as parents and children try to understand new cultural norms and at the same time, maintain the values and beliefs which have provided meaning to their life and a basis for their identity.