The role of acculturation in the emerging adulthood of aboriginal college students


emerging adulthood, cultural differences, interdependence


Compared to traditional, non-Western cultures, emerging adulthood (18–25 years of age) may look considerably different in cultures that place emphasis on the group (i.e., collectivistic) over the individual (i.e., individualistic). However, within minority cultures, individual members vary on the extent to which they identify with their heritage culture. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore the role that culture, particularly acculturation to Canadian aboriginal heritage culture, may play in emerging adulthood. Specifically, aboriginal emerging adults who scored above or below the mean of their peers on acculturation to their heritage (aboriginal) culture were compared to their majority European Canadian counterparts in several aspects of emerging adulthood including (a) perceived adult status, (b) perceived criteria for adulthood, (c) achieved criteria for adulthood, (d) personal beliefs about the future, and (e) risk behaviours. Results revealed the significance of examining acculturation in understanding the role of culture in the process of emerging adulthood, particularly among ethnic minority youth. In particular, findings revealed that young aboriginal adults’ level of identification with aboriginal traditions such as the significance of interdependence and maintenance of harmony, the role of children and family, and historical sociocultural events appeared to play a role in many aspects of emerging adulthood.

Original Publication Citation

Cheah, C. S. L., & Nelson, L. J. (2004). The role of acculturation in the emerging adulthood of Aboriginal college students. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 28, 495-507.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



International Journal of Behavioral Development




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor