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Step 3: Trace interactions among variables

  1. Theory 2
  2. Classificatory Theories
  3. Explanatory Theories
  4. Building A Classification Theory
  5. Building An Explanatory Theory
  6. Step 2: Identify causal factors
  7. Step 3: Trace interactions among variables
  8. Step 4: Propose a scheme for evaluating causal variables
  9. Adapting And Revising Theories

Step 3: Trace interactions among variables

We now speculate about how the causal variables interact in the process of self-identity development. We imagine that the interaction follows the pattern proposed in Figure 5-1. The diagram shows what we estimate happens when a bicultural person participates in an event which influences how that person (a) perceives comparative advantages of cultures A and B and/or (b) is treated by relatives from A and B and/or (c) is treated by nonfamily members of A and B.

The pattern begins at the top with events in daily life that involve one or more of the three causal variables, events that serve as influential life conditions. For instance, a bicultural 16-year-old girl observes the quality of language usage by classmates from cultures A and B, she newly meets a relative from culture A, and she attends a high school social club’s rush party where there are girls from both culture A and culture B. She is warmly greeted by her newly met relative from culture A, and at the rush party is treated well by girls from culture A but snubbed by ones from culture B. Thus, we predict that these experiences strengthen her tendency to adopt the language usage of culture A in preference to the usage typical of culture B.

Therefore, we propose that the girl interprets each event in a way that affects her welfare–her happiness, sense of confidence, disappointment, and distress. As the arrow from individual’s welfare to influential life conditions indicates, this interpretation feeds back to influence the three life-condition factors, altering them a bit or else confirming her original conception of them. For example, the experience may confirm her expectation that being identified as a member of culture A is more advantageous than as a member of culture B.

The results of the round-cornered box at the top (life conditions interacting with self-interpreted welfare) influence the person’s self-identity (“who I am culturally” and “the groups to which I truly belong”). This revised or confirmed concept of self influences how the person subsequently acts (individual’s behavior)–confident, diffident, aggressive, submissive, friendly, antagonistic, or such. Other people respond to such behavior (others’ responses). Then the individual interprets those responses as praise, criticism, acceptance, rejection, approval, disgust, reward, punishment, or the like. That interpretation serves as a factor feeding back to the beginning of the cycle as a further life condition.

In effect, by depicting a process of development, we have added four additional factors or components that affect self-identity–(a) the bicultural persons’ interpretation of how life conditions affect her or his welfare, (b) the individual’s behavior as influenced by self-identity, (c) other people’s reactions to such behavior, and (d) the individual’s interpretation of such reactions.

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