Cultural Adjustment of Selected Filipino Immigrant Adolescents in Singapore. Implications to Adaptability

Bachelor Thesis, 2016

86 Pages, Grade: 1.60


Table of Contents

1. The Problem and It’s Scope
Review of Related Literature
Conceptual Framework
Schematic Diagram
Statement of the Problem
Objectives of the Study
Significance of the Study
Scope and Limitation
Definition of Terms
Organization of the Study

2. Research Design and Methodology
Research Design
Research Participants
Research Instrument
Research Environment
Research Procedure.
Data Analysis.

3. Presentation, Interpretation and Analysis of Data

4. Summary of Findings, Conclusions, Implications and
Summary of Findings


Appendix A: Letter of Endorsement to Study
Appendix B: Letter of Consent to Parents
Appendix C: Letter of Consent to Adolescents
Appendix D: Questionnaires
Appendix E: Mean per Item


First of all, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to our advisor Miss Teresa Lumapas for the continuous support of our thesis research, for her patience, motivation, and knowledge. Her guidance helped us in our research and writing of this thesis.

We would like to thank the rest of our thesis committee: Miss Ma Ditas Orozco, Miss Mary Donnavel Libron-Buloron and Miss Charisse Severiana Polotan for their insightful comments and encouragement.

Our sincere thanks also goes to our ever supportive families who provided us emotional, spiritual and financial support during the making of our thesis. Without their precious support it would not be possible to conduct this research.

We would like to thank our friends, schoolmates, and acquaintances for helping us to get possible participants for our study and for the stimulating discussions. In particular, we are grateful to Kimberly Joyce Manubag for the advices in our research.

Our sincere appreciation for our participants for their active participation and for being part of this research.


This study seeks to understand the difficulties and challenges of Filipino adolescents when introduced to a new culture. A total of 50 Filipino immigrant adolescents in Singapore had been selected as participants. There were two variables measured; the cultural adjustment stages and cross-cultural adjustment aspects. Using a descriptive research design, the researchers formulated 2 sets of 5-point Likert scale questionnaires. One consists of items on the four cultural adjustment stages; honeymoon stage, culture shock, gradual adjustment and feeling at home. The second questionnaire consists of items on the three aspects of cross-cultural adjustment; general environment, adjustment to school and interaction adjustment. The data were analyzed using mean per item to determine which cultural adjustment stage and cross-cultural aspect of adjustment the participants were experiencing. The researchers found that there was no definite cultural stage that the participants were mostly identified. They also found that among the categories of the general environment, the way of life had the lowest level of adjustment while adjustment to school and interaction adjustment had a high level of adjustment. Based on the results of the study, key factors to ease the adaptability, such as the favorability of the physical and social environment were recommended to those who are planning to migrate.



The culture of migration in the Philippines is one of the most imperative factors of the Philippines economy because migration for work has proven to have substantial implications on growth and development in the country. According to a 2015 Worldbank report, the Philippines is in the top five remittance recipient countries in the world and the 3rd remittance recipient in the East Asia and Pacific Region. Singapore has been one of the top destinations for families because skilled migrant workers may bring along family members as part of a company’s remuneration package (Lin & Yeaoh, 2012)

Leaving your life in one country for a new life in another country is challenging due to cultural differences, bringing about problems of adjustment and impending integration. Migration is stressful and being in an unfamiliar physical and cultural environment can be alienating, subsequently leading to internal conflict in the shift from the comfort of familiarity with the isolation of the new culture (Bhugra, 2004). The change in demographic composition of places also affects the attitudes of the families, especially their children. Espiritu and Wolf (1999) stated that children of immigrants struggle with the transition. Immigrant adolescents are not exempted from the stress of the moving process, and may even find it harder to cope with changes.

Contrary to Espiritu and Wolf’s (1999) statement, Kristin McCarthy (n.d.) expressed that immigrant adolescents adapt to their new environment with ease. However in reality, immigrant adolescents have long been struggling to meet their psychological needs. In fact, many of the immigrant children face enormous psychosocial challenges which make it imperative that the process of adjustment needs to be understood (Jimeno et al, 2010). In order to do so, it is required to have an understanding of the dynamics of cultural integration as well as the internal and external changes that occur during various stages of cultural integration (Diakanwa, 2011). Adjusting to new environments can be a stressful process since people have to adapt to a new social and physical environment (Li & Gasser, 2005). Migration places further stress on adolescents because there is a lack of coherence in the youths’ socialization process, which contributes to psychological maladjustment (Heras & Revilla, 1994). It is the process that gives rise to a series of psychosocial transformations; the social, economic and cultural conditions associated with the migration cycle can be associated with stress, tension anxiety, and depression (Ho, 2013).

The researchers are eager to conduct this study because of the increasing number of immigrants around the globe specifically in Singapore. Migration also is an impending issue to Filipinos because they are one of the many immigrants who go overseas to work and the conflict in adapting remains remarkably understudied. The nonresident population increased at an unprecedented pace in the first decade of the 21st century, according to the 2010 Singapore census. The number of Filipino origin is difficult to determine, since they are officially counted as members of the "Others" race by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority but according to official Philippine data, out of a foreign population of 1.55 million, about 172,700 Filipinos work in Singapore ( This study tries to understand the range of variables that affect the process of adjustment of immigrant adolescents in Singapore.

Review of Related Literature

Immigration is a global phenomenon that involves millions of people and most countries. As stated by BBC Bitesize - GCSE (2014), people migrate for many different reasons. They move towards opportunities because life in poverty and despair often forces people to search for a better life. The current income disparity between developed and developing nations has reached unprecedented heights. The advent of better opportunities in the developed world has led to an increase in the influx of immigrants in search of a more stable future. With remittances reaching $28 billion (Worldbank, 2015), many immigrant families have improved their living conditions by migrating and raising their children in other countries.

The Philippine government encourages migration and it can be interpreted as a sign of serious failure of the state, to provide employment opportunities for the entire citizen of the Philippines (Abella, 2007). It was first seen by the administration of Ferdinand Marcos, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. He saw an opportunity to export young men who were unemployed by the stagnant economy and established a system to regulate and encourage labor outflows. Later on, it was continued by establishing the agency called Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to provide contract labor directly to foreign employers. There are roughly 12.5 million Filipinos currently residing or working abroad as reported by POEA (Espajo, 2014). Despite the growing presence of Filipino immigrants in other countries, research on their experiences and challenges of adjusting to a new society is lacking (De Guzman, 2011).

Filipinos can be proud of their adaptability. As stated by National Migration of Australia (2008), Filipinos are emphatic by nature that makes them better able to relate with other people even from other cultures. They are able to adapt and thrive in most situations and they have an excellent grasp of the English language, both written and spoken. Wong (2012) noted that Filipinos are highly adaptable to different people, cultures, and situations that generally make them well-rounded beings. While overseas, they not only connect with fellow Filipinos but they also adjust easily to different cultures and diverse people. They tend to make do with what little they have and find pleasure in the simple things. In addition, Wong stated that they adapt well in difficult situations that likewise showcase their resilience as a nation. Others may view this as a general acceptance of fate or a strange kind of coping mechanism.

Adolescence is a developmental period in which the young person must negotiate fundamental psychosocial tasks in their development towards maturity and independence. As what psychologist Erik Erikson stated in his theory of psychosocial development, this developing sense of autonomy is part of a psychosocial crisis, Stage 5 - identity vs. role confusion, when a person has to resolve an internal emotional conflict in his or her own life. This is the time when the adolescent is interested in finding out who one is, what one is all about, and where one is headed in life (Santrock, 1997). When the person is not able to resolve this crisis, the development of personality is affected which render the resolution of later tasks much more difficult (Acero et al., 2008). An adolescent struggles to discover and find his or her own identity, while negotiating and struggling with social interactions and fitting in, and developing a sense of morality from right and wrong. Throughout the enculturation process, adolescents learn to become functional in the society in which they have been raised by obtaining cultural competence and appropriateness in their socialization practices (Kwak, 2003). The development of a healthy individual identity is a major task of adolescence. Young people from other cultural backgrounds face the additional challenge of deciding about their ethnic identity, therefore, culture is a powerful influence on the development of one’s identity. Mayadas & Segal (n.d.) suggested that children who move to another country do experience the task of adjusting to a number of areas related to the sociocultural environment. The adolescent is faced with the task of learning to deal with the new environment in a number of areas, for example, adjusting to different climatic conditions, patterns of eating and dressing, ways of talking to people and interacting with friends. Relocation on residence during adolescence disrupts immigrants' existing networks of peer, family and society because these networks are important to their development. The most essential factor affecting the success of adjustment to a new environment is relationship with others. The accessibility of personal, family and community support system to the immigrants was significant and important to adjustment (Tong, 2000).

On a broader level, we might think of adjustment as involving not only children’s progress and achievement but also their attitudes towards school, anxieties, loneliness, social support, and academic motivation like engagement, avoidance and absence (Schunk et al., 2010). The adjustment period of the adolescents might trigger in any aspect of the place when they are new in the country. According to a study by Sicat (2011), those foreign students in Tarlac State University, coming to the Philippines had difficulty adjusting to food and hygiene practices of the Filipinos. Ilias & Mustaffa (2013) had also conducted a study on international students in the Northern University of Malaysia wherein they looked into different factors that had a relationship to cross cultural adjustment. Their study found out that there were no significant differences in terms of cross cultural adjustment between genders. Whereas, travel experience, level of education, and language proficiency contributed significantly to the differences in cross-cultural adjustment among their participants.

Adjustment from the sociocultural perspective, learning new skills and sometimes alter practiced skills in fitting into a new culture based on past experiences includes booming and sometimes confusing cultural clashes, as well as the excitement and challenge of being in a foreign world, immigration difficulties, culture shock and homesickness. The adolescents use the world around them and pick up cues from their environment to aid their development in coping up to the new cultures and situations (Garcia, 2015).

In the case of immigrants, they are introduced into a new culture where they can experience culture shock, the disoriented feeling that occurs in the context of being in a new culture (Cheney et al, n.d). Adjusting to a new culture caters the individual to experience different changes in their life especially if the new country has a diverse culture. Among of those countries, Singapore is considered as the melting pot around the globe wherein there is a diversity of races as stated by Travelers Digest (Smith, 2012). However, Singapore and Philippines are both Asian countries which tends to be highly group-oriented people who place a strong emphasis on family connection as the major source of identity and protection against the hardships of life according to Carteret (2011). The family is the single most important unit in Asian society. Qiang (1991) also reported that the traditional Asian value of family ties remains paramount to the average Singaporean. Hence, it is not surprising that it is the group being emphasized rather than the individual in the Singaporean society.

Many Asian cultures tend to be collectivist. In Hofstede’s conception of individualism versus collectivism, score range runs from 0 - 100 with 50 as a midlevel. If a score is under 50 the country is considered collectivist where a core above 50, a country is considered individualist. The Philippines, with a score of 32 and Singapore with a score of 20, are considered collectivistic societies. This is manifested in a long-term commitment to the group, family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and overrides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group. With an exposure of a similar social outlook of culture in Singapore, a Filipino adolescent might find it easy to adjust in Singapore.

The term culture shock was coined by anthropologist, Kalervo Oberg, to describe as a physical, psychological, and behavioral reactions that often occur when individuals are attempting to live, work, or study in unfamiliar cultural contexts. He identified four stages of cultural adjustment under culture shock. These four stages are honeymoon stage, culture shock, gradual adjustment and feeling at home. Stage one is characterized by excitement and fascination towards the new culture wherein he referred this phase as the honeymoon stage (Oberg, 1954). When the individual arrives at the new posting abroad, everything seems exotic and interesting. They are curious to explore the new surroundings and they mainly see the positive side of their relocation. Many people in this phase see others from their own culture in a different stage of adjustment and wonder why the others are having such a difficult time adjusting when they themselves seem to have adjusted in only a few days. When the honeymoon stage is over, the critical phase of culture shock begins. The second stage is characterized by rejection of everything dealing with the new culture. The individual will start to realize that it is difficult to be in constant contact with the new cultures and different customs. They feel like they lost their balance and realize how different everything is compared to their home country. They begin to miss home, it seems to them that everything they know is turned upside down, and they do not understand the locals and they feel misunderstood. This daunting experience can actually be quite short but sometimes it might last up to three to six months before they realize the cause of their unhappiness. If it last longer, the person usually returns home. As the person gradually begins to adjust to the new culture, they move into the third stage, the gradual adjustment. It is the stage where the immigrants will slowly understand the new cultural cues and wants to belong in the society. This happens usually during their first year of their relocation. They will feel safer and more content with their life and will become more proactive again. They will take the opportunity to meet new people as they try to find new ways to live and enjoy their new lifestyle. Life becomes easier for them as they gradually understand what is happening around them. They learn the local language, customs, and way of living as they adjust slowly without losing their own cultural identity. The fourth stage is often referred to as biculturalism or feeling at home (Oberg, 1954). One could feel completely comfortable in both the new culture and one’s own. There are some instances that they will still compare the advantages or disadvantages of their new home with their old country, but the comparison is more in a realistic way of seeing things. Life is not anymore so exciting, they are not so anxious and they feel comfortable with their new surroundings. They got new friends and perhaps lead a different lifestyle wherein they do not worry about blending in the new country.

Black et al (1991) proposed that there are at least three different aspects of the construct of cross cultural adjustment: adjustment to school, adjustment to interacting with host nationals, and adjustment to the general environment. Adjustment to school involves adaptation to the new role, new environment and new tasks. Adjustment to interacting with host nationals also called interaction adjustment, involves interactions with host nationals both in working and nonworking situations. When introduced to a new culture, the individuals need to cope with the difficulties that arise from the transition of the old culture to the new culture. Adjustment to general environment consists of food, language, way of life, rules and regulations, etc which falls under the physiological or basic needs of an individual. The other two factors which are adjustment to school and interaction adjustment relates to the belongingness of the individual to the new culture. In relation to this, Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be associated with the cross cultural aspects in the adjustment of an individual. The hierarchy of needs consists of physiological, safety, belongingness, esteem and self-actualization (Feist et al., 2013). Maslow states that once the lower level needs is satisfied or at least relatively satisfied, then an individual would go on to the higher level of needs. Immigrant families might undergo a state of impaired psychological functioning upon their arrival in a new country because when they arrive, they need to learn where to buy food and other basic resources that are included in physiological needs. For an immigrant, housing needs are part of the need for security, becoming part of a community and social network are social needs, and finding work satisfaction is included under esteem needs (Shoham & Strauss, 2008). The difficulty to adjust to a new culture is caused by the inability to understand, interpret, or translate new patterns of cultural behavior present in the new social setting (Oberg, 1954).

Based on the literature review, the cultural practices of the Philippines and Singapore are quite similar. However, there are challenges that the immigrant adolescent might experience due to the fast pace of life, the strictness of the law, and the use of native languages in Singapore. The need to examine the cultural adjustment stages and the cross cultural adjustment experiences of the immigrant adolescents, especially in Singapore due to the increasing population of Filipino immigrant families for the researchers to provide an implication to adaptability.

Adaptability refers to the ability to adjust and accommodate to changing and often unpredictable physical, interpersonal, cultural, and task environments. People who are adaptable are often described as cognitively flexible, resilient, and accommodating and are able to adjust to situations even in the state of under pressure. According to Alessandra & O’Connor (1996), the concept of adaptability is a two-part process: (1) flexibility is the willingness to adapt wherein the individual’s attitude towards the new environment and (2) versatility is the ability to adapt which is the individual’s aptitude. People who are adaptable are both flexible and versatile and its level of adaptability can be stronger in some situations such as interacting with others. Based on a study by Imamura, et al, (2010) it is very evident among Filipinos to adjust and adapt to circumstances and any eventualities. This trait is manifested in the presence of the Filipinos in many parts of the world wherein there is always a Filipino. They also affirm that Filipinos are flexible and able to adjust to any situations and that Filipinos are creative, resourceful and quick learners. Moreover, flexibility is once ability to recognize when there is a need to change once ways of addressing obstacles and difficulties.

Conceptual Framework

This study was focused on the selected Filipino immigrant adolescents who were born and raised in the Philippines and now currently staying in Singapore. The researchers gathered 50 participants who are age 12 to 18 years old. The study explored the participant’s cultural adjustment experiences. The participants’ cultural adjustment experiences were based on Oberg’s (1954) cultural adjustment stages which explains the four stages that was common to immigrants when the new culture was introduced to the participants. The researchers used the gathered data to have a clearer view on the immigrant adolescents’ state of cultural adjustment in their new society and the particular aspect of adjustment that they have encountered upon staying in Singapore. The researchers looked into the implications of the findings to adaptability.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Fig. 1 Schematic Diagram

Statement of the Problem

This study aims to understand the cultural adjustment experiences of immigrant adolescents and particularly to know the different aspects of adjustment.

Specifically the study aims to answer the following:

1. In what cultural adjustment stages are immigrant adolescents mostly identified?
1.1 Honeymoon Stage
1.2 Culture Shock
1.3 Gradual Adjustment
1.4 Feeling at Home
2. In what particular aspect of cross cultural adjustment do the immigrant adolescents have difficulty in adjusting to a new country?
2.1 Adjustment to the General Environment
2.2 Adjustment to School
2.3 Adjustment to Interacting with Host Nationals
3. What are the implications of the results of the study to adaptability?


The following were the aims of the study:

General Objective

To help immigrant adolescents understand the difficulties and challenges that they are facing within themselves and to help them understand the difficulties when adjusting to a new culture.

Specific Objectives

1. To determine the prevalent cultural adjustment stages of the adolescent immigrants.
2. To know which aspects of cross cultural adjustment are the immigrant adolescents having difficulties.
3. To discuss the implication of the study to adaptability of the immigrant adolescents.


Excerpt out of 86 pages


Cultural Adjustment of Selected Filipino Immigrant Adolescents in Singapore. Implications to Adaptability
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
1726 KB
Immigrations, migration, asian, filipinos, adolescents, culture, first world country, third world country, developing country, culture conflicts, adaptability, cultural adjustment
Quote paper
Joanne Varon (Author)Dave A. Climaco (Author)Alyssa Marie Y. Gucor (Author), 2016, Cultural Adjustment of Selected Filipino Immigrant Adolescents in Singapore. Implications to Adaptability, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: Cultural Adjustment of Selected Filipino Immigrant Adolescents in Singapore. Implications to Adaptability

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free