Existential hazards of the multicultural individual: defining and understanding "cultural homelessness"

Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol. 1999 Feb;5(1):6-26. doi: 10.1037/1099-9809.5.1.6.


Cultural homelessness (CH) is the authors' term to describe unique experiences and feelings reported by some multicultural individuals. Ethnically related concepts found in the cross-cultural and multiethnic literature (e.g., marginality, intercultural effectiveness, ethnic enclaves, reference group) are used to explain how CH may arise from cross-cultural tensions within the ethnically mixed family and between the family and its culturally different environment, especially due to geographic moves. CH is conceptualized as a situationally imposed developmental challenge, forcing the child to accommodate to contradictory and changing norms, values, verbal and nonverbal communication styles, and attachment processes. Culturally homeless individuals may enjoy a broader, stronger cognitive and social repertoire because of their multiple cultural frames of reference. However, code-switching,complexities may lead to emotional and social confusion, which, if internalized, may result in self-blame and shame. Culturally encoded emotion labeling may be disrupted, leading to alexithymia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology*
  • Existentialism / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Prejudice
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Conformity
  • Social Identification*
  • Social Isolation / psychology
  • Socialization