2012. Vol.3, No.12A, 1248-1253
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
An Evaluation of Life Satisfaction within the Migratory
Experience According to Psychosocial Variables
Macarena Vallejo Martín, Maria del Pilar Moreno-Jiménez
Málaga University, Málaga, Spain
Received September 30th, 2012; revised October 31st, 2012; accepted November 26th, 2012
This study attempts to discover which psychosocial variables effect whether a displaced person evaluates
their migratory experience and their life in the new context as positive. The psychosocial variables studied
are: social support, individual self-esteem, social identity, analysis of endogroup and exogroup, assimila-
tion of host culture, and perception of the assessment of the host culture and level of retention of the
original culture. The general objective is to discover to what degree these variables predict the level of life
satisfaction in the new city of residence. Following an analysis of the data, we find that social support
predicts satisfaction in 23.3%. Furthermore, in order to generalise these findings across the overall immi-
grant population, resident in Spain, a comparison of three Spanish cities is carried out: Barcelona, Madrid
and Málaga. The results show that although an identical pattern cannot be applied to all three cities, but in
conclusion we can say that the variables with greater success in predicting life satisfaction are: social
support, assimilation and assessment of host culture and self-esteem. (1)
Keywords: Immigration; Life Satisfaction; Assimilation of Host Culture; Social Support; Retention of
Original Culture
The migration experience is experienced by the person af-
fected, in all its dimensions: mental-conceptual, affective-emo-
tional, behavioural, relational, identity, etc. All of these have to
be understood in the pursuit of well-being, freedom and inte-
gration (Melero & Díe, 2010). Social intervention should have
an impact on each of the different dimensions in order to
achieve the overall well-being of the migrant. For this to work,
it is essential to prevent risk factors and strengthen psychoso-
cial protection factors which facilitate a positive assessment of
the migratory experience and perception of satisfaction with the
new life project.
In contrast to the general perception of the native population,
migrants have particularly resilient modes of being and dealing
with life especially in the face of difficulties and moments of
change and a special strength and flexibility to deal with ad-
verse conditions (Scott & Scott, 1989). (2) However, the ca-
pacity of adaptation and all that the process of acculturation
implies has a huge impact on a displaced person in every aspect
of their life (Martínez, García, & Martínez, 2004). (2) It is not
so strange therefore that most studies on migration in the field
of psychology have concentrated on analysing those factors
most relevant to the process of adaptation, principally those
which play a greater role in acculturative stress, and feelings of
dis- placement or migratory grief (Moreno & Vallejo, 2008;
Tizón, Salamero, Sanjosé, Pellejero, Achotegui, & Sainz, 1993).
(2) Is it therefore possible to understand these factors as poten-
tials to be developed for a better understanding of the migratory
Social Support
Among the many factors studied that lead to a positive eva-
luation of their migratory experience by the person who emi-
grates, can be found social support. This is because restructur-
ing the fabric of interpersonal relationships takes on particular
relevance as a source of psychosocial resources, essential for
facing the demands associated with the migratory experience
(Aroian, 1992; Lynam, 1985; Martínez, García, & Maya, 1999).
Having a network of support means it is possible to share prob-
lems, gain in opportunities for social participation and a sense
of belonging etc. Different studies in our country (Martínez,
1996; Martínez, García, & Maya, 2002; Lila, Gracia, Herrero,
& Robles, 2007; among others) have confirmed that a social
support network is fundamental for the reinterpretation of the
new culture, to establish new ties and to acquire new skills
which enable the development of a new social strata rooted in a
welcoming society furthering the successful outcome of the
new life project. So, within the framework of the social net-
works available to a displaced person, the degree of contact
maintained with the host culture is relevant as a way of ap-
proaching the same. These relationships can provide important
information about the country in which they find themselves
and can help to avoid feelings of segregation and marginalisa-
tion. It is not however always the case that these relationships
have a positive effect on the immigrant’s well-being. Some
research has determined negative effects deriving from experi-
ences of discrimination and ethnic prejudice (Halpern, 1993;
Liebkind & Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000; Ryff, Keyes, & Hughes,
2003). Therefore the positive or negative effect on well-being is
at the heart of intergroup relationships between native popula-
tions and immigrates.
Acculturative St rategy
As Berry (1997) suggests in his Acculturation Model, an-
other determining factor in whether a displaced person adopts
to the new context is the acculturative strategy undertaken. This
in turn is determined by two independent factors: retention of
original culture and assimilation of host culture. Both the de-
gree of retention of original culture and the assimilation of host
culture are measured relative to the evaluation of the endogroup
and the exogroup which the displaced person makes. The re-
search carried out around Berry’s model (1997) in different
countries and with distinct ethnic groups shows that practically
all groups choose the option of integration as the preferred
strategy of acculturation (assimilation of the host culture whilst
retaining their original culture) (Campani & Catani, 1985; Neto,
1993; Oriol, 1985; Partridge, 1988; Sam, 1995), although some
intergroup variations exist according to the different psychoso-
cial indicators (age, length of stay, motives and immigration
conditions etc.).
Perception Assessment and Self-Esteem
In addition a negative perception assessment on the part of
the host population can have a harmful effect on the well-being
of immigrants (Hernández, Pozo, Alonso, & Martos, 2005).
Therefore in the acculturation process the value the subject
places on their own group is vital as is the perception they have
of how they are valued as a member of that group. This as-
sessment and perception of assessment which correspond to the
social side of self-image are closely linked with individual
self-esteem and are absolutely essential to the levels of adjust-
ment and satisfaction felt by an immigrant in their new context.
This relationship between individual self-esteem and collective
self-esteem has been stressed in different studies (Luhtanen &
Crocker, 1992; Sánchez, 1999).
So, the way in which the displaced group and the native
group value each other will have repercussions for the accul-
turation strategy that each one displays. This assessment can be
influenced by various factors, among which can be found: level
of identification with the group, perceived competition between
groups, perceived cultural enrichment, the rigidity of their own
values, underlying conflicts or levels of contact between groups
etc. (Piontkowski, Florack, Hoelker, & Obdrzálek, 2000).
To sum up, in the acculturation process a multitude of vari-
ables, individual and group, come into play and all of them
have to be taken into consideration when predicting the evalua-
tion that a displaced person makes of their migratory experi-
ence. The objective of this study is to discover whether some
psychosocial variables reported in the literature as being influ-
ential for a successful adaptation and adjustment in a new con-
text are also relevant in terms of life satisfaction, positive
evaluation of the migratory process and well-being. Focus re-
search on the positive elements and meet the own evaluation
and perception of the person, and therefore, flee the “cul-
turalist” vision of the migratory experience, are the main
points of this study innovation. (5) Moreover, with the idea of
extending the results to different contexts, three cities of refer-
ence are used: Málaga, Madrid and Barcelona. This work is
based on the hypothesis that all the variables considered in
the study are important in predicting the level of life satis-
faction in the migration experience (4)
Participants (6) and Procedure (8)
The study is made up of a total of 285 migrants, of whom
49.8% are men and 50.2% are women. These people come from
a total of thirty-six different countries from the five continents.
The principal geographic area is Latin America with a percent-
age of 59.7%; followed by the area of Maghreb with 21.3% and
Sub-Saharan Africa with 9.5%.
With respect to personal circumstances, 52.6% state that they
are single, 39.6% are married or live with their partner and
7.8% are separated. The average age of the participants is 32
years old. Particularly relevant is that more than half of the
participants (54%) state they are unemployed. At the same time
40% have university studies and 47% to secondary level. Only
1.8% has no studies at all.
The majority of the subjects give the main reasons for emi-
gration as being economic and the search for new opportunities.
As for the respondents’ administrative circumstances, the per-
centages are more equal in the four possible responses: pending,
temporary (according to contract or length of studies), final
documentation or undocumented.
The data was gathered in three Spanish cities in different
autonomous communities: Málaga (37.9%), Madrid (31.6%)
and Barcelona (30.5%).
The questionnaire was administered with a choice of three
languages: Spanish, English and French. The participation of
the respondents was anonymous and voluntary. To access par-
ticipants, we visited different places such as call shops, as-
sociations and offices of renewal of cards of residence, etc.
Therefore, participation in the study was random trying to
respect a balance in sex and place of origin (7).
Measurements (9)
The following instruments were used to measure the different
SAI questionnaire—2005 version (Strategies of Accultura-
tion in Immigrants) by Moreno and Vallejo (2005). Com-
prising a total of 35 items with a four point response scale,
from 1 (“Strongly disagree”) to 4 (“Strongly agree”). This
scale measures assimilation of host culture and retention of
original culture. An example of items for each one of the
factors could be “I try to know all of the Spanish cultural
norms” and “I look for people from my culture to interact
with” The reliability analysis for each one of these factors
demonstrate a Cronbach Alpha of 0.87 for assimilation of
host culture and 0.90 for preservation of original culture.
Rosenberg Scale of Self-esteem (1965). Comprising 10
items with a four point response from 1 (Strongly disagree”)
to 4 (Strongly agree”). This scale measures individual self-
esteem or a person’s self-evaluation. An example of this
scale item is: “I sometimes think I’m no good for any-
thing” (10) The scale has a Cronbach Alpha of 0.713.
Adaptation of the Scale of Life Satisfaction by Diener,
Emmons, Larson and Griffen (1985) for immigrants
(Vallejo, 2009). The original scale of Life Satisfaction by
Diener et al. (1985) adapted to immigrants has been used,
finally comprising a total of 6 items with a five point re-
sponse ranging from 1 (“Totally disagree”) to 5 (“Totally
agree”). As examples of items on this scale: “almost eve-
rything in my life in Spain responds to my aspirations”
and “In Spain I have achieved things that were impor-
tant to me”. (10) The Cronbach Alpha for the adapted ver-
sion is 0.816.
Scale of Perception of Social Support by Duke-Unc (1995).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1249
It is made up of eleven items with a five point response
from 1 (“Never”) to 5 (“Always”). The scale measures per-
ceived social support. Examples of items of this scale are:
“Receive visits from friends and family” and “Receipt
for help when I’m sick” (10). The reliability analysis
demonstrates a Cronbach Alpha of 0.888.
Scale of Social Identity (Vallejo, 2009). The level of social
identity is measured by 3 items with a five point response
from 1 (“Totally disagree”) to 5 (“Totally agree”). These
items refer to: importance of group of origin, identification
with and ties to said group. An example of this scale item
is: “I identify with my original group” (10). The reliabil-
ity analysis has a Cronbach Alpha of 0.851.
Scale of Assessment of Host Culture and Assessment of
Own Culture (Vallejo, 2009). It is made up of two subscales
of four items in each with a response format of 1 to 5, 1 be-
ing “Very bad” to 5 “Very good”. The scale measures As-
sessment of Host Culture and Assessment of Own Culture
based on four aspects: eating habits, social relationships,
cultural customs and ways of communicating. Examples of
the items for these factors are “I value how the Spanish in-
teract” and “I value the culture and customs of my country”.
The Cronbach Alpha for Assessment of host culture is
0.872 and for Assessment of Own Culture, 0.837.
Scale of Perception of Assessment (Vallejo, 2009). It com-
prises two items with responses of 1 to 5, 1 being “Very
bad” and 5 being “Very good”. This scale measures the
subject’s perception of how the Spanish value people from
their country. An example of an item is “I think the Spanish
value the people of my country”. The reliability analysis
demonstrates a Cronbach Alpha of 0.879.
1) Descriptives of the psychosocial variables. Differences
according to city of residence.
The psychosocial variables under discussion in this study are:
life satisfaction, assimilation of host culture, retention of own
culture, self-esteem, social identity, social support, assessment
of host culture, assessment of own culture and perception of
assessment of the host society. The descriptives of each one of
these variables are collected together in Table 1.
According to the results of the different psychosocial vari-
ables the respondents in the study show a pretty high level of
assimilation of the host culture and an equally high level of
retention of original culture. However they value their own
culture more and show high levels in social identity. The re-
spondents also have average levels in perception of assessment
of the host society. Furthermore they show high levels of
self-esteem and a medium/high level in life satisfaction and
social support. Below, these same descriptives are collected to-
gether according to city of residence (Table 2).
As can be seen the only variables that produce significant
differences according to city of residence are assessment of
own culture and perception of assessment on the part of the
host society. With the objective of discovering between which
cities these differences are created, the post hoc Scheffé test is
applied. Obtaining in this way that both for assessment of own
culture and for the perception of assessment of the host society,
the significant differences are found between Málaga and Ma-
drid. In both cases, the highest levels were seen in Málaga city.
It is consistent therefore that in the city where own culture is
Table 1.
Descriptives of the psychosocial variables.
Means D.T
Assimilation of host culture (1 - 4) 3.21 0.489
Retention of own culture (1 - 4) 3.17 0.533
Self-esteem (1 - 4) 3.23 0.462
Satisfaction (1 - 5) 3.31 0.850
Social Identity (1 - 5) 3.83 1.042
Social Support (1 - 5) 3.59 0.798
Ass.Host Culture (1 - 5) 3.83 0.823
Ass.Own culture (1 - 5) 4.17 0.704
Perception assessment (1 - 5) 3.39 1.058
Table 2.
Descriptives of psychosocial variables and differences according to city
of residence.
Madrid Málaga Barcelona
Assimilation of host culture
(1 - 4) 3.25 3.23 3.15
Retention of own culture (1 - 4) 3.26 3.16 3.08
Self-esteem (1 - 4) 3.26 3.24 3.20
Life satisfaction (1 - 5) 3.24 3.39 3.30
Social identity (1 - 5) 3.86 3.98 3.62
Social support (1 - 5) 3.59 3.61 3.55
Ass. of Host Culture (1 - 5) 3.76 3.94 3.76
Ass. of Own Culture (1 - 5)* 4.06 4.32 4.09
Assessment of Host Culture
(1 - 5)* 3.22 3.58 3.33
Note: *p < 0.05.
the most highly valued, the highest levels of perception of as-
sessment on the part of the host city are to be found.
2) Relationships between the different psychosocial vari-
According to the results (see Table 3) the correlation coeffi-
cients between life satisfaction and the rest of the psychosocial
variables studied, with the exception of retention of original
culture, are all statistically significant. A higher level of corre-
lation can be found between life satisfaction and social support
(0.485), assessment of host culture (0.459), assimilation of host
culture (0.437) and self-esteem (0.349). Other variables that
also correlate, although to a lesser degree are: perception of
assessment of host society (0.289), social identity (0.271) and
assessment of own culture (0.203).
On the other hand, it is clear that the variable retention of
original culture correlates with social identity (0.563) and as-
sessment of own culture (0.555). At the same time, the variable
assimilation of host culture correlates with assessment of host
culture (0.572), self-esteem (0.30) and social support (0.30).
This last variable significantly correlates with all the psychoso-
cial variables considered in this study. Finally it should be
noted that the assessment of host culture and perception of as-
sessment by them. In conclusion, it can be observed that many
of the variables studied within the process of acculturation cor-
relate with each other and in particular with life satisfaction.
Taken within the context of displacement it correlates with all
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1251
Table 3.
Correlation coefficient of the assessment of the migratory experience (life satisfaction) with other psychosocial variables.
Factor Here
There Self-Esteem Social
Host Culture
Own Culture
Satisfaction 0.437(**) 0.076 0.349(**) 0.271(**) 0.485(**) 0.459(**) 0.203(**) 0.289(**)
Factor Here 1 0.088 0.330(**) 0.170(**) 0.330(**) 0.572(**) 0.155(**) 0.263(**)
Factor There 1 0.060 0.563(**) 0.211(**) 0.035 0.555(**) 0.040
Self-Esteem 1 0.269(**) 0.240(**) 0.149(*) 0.155(**) 0.059
Social Identity 1 0.294(**) 0.150(*) 0.518(**) 0.009
Social Support 1 0.406(**) 0.354(**) 0.242(**)
Assessment Host
Culture 1 0.316(**) 0.462(**)
Assessment Own
Culture 1 0.236(**)
Note: **The correlation is significant to a level 0.01 (bilateral); *The correlation is significant to a level 0.05 (bilateral).
the factors with the exception of retention of own culture.
3) Variables predictive of life satisfaction in the migratory
In order to know which factors predict life satisfaction in the
process of acculturation of immigrants, and as a way that a
displaced person has of assessing their life in the new context, a
regression analysis is done according to the stepwise method.
The results are shown in Table 4.
As can be seen, the main predictive factors of life satisfaction
considered in the study are: social support, assimilation of host
culture, self-esteem and assessment of host culture. These four
factors explain 37.1% of life satisfaction in the acculturation
process, with the emphasis on social support, as by itself it
explains 23.3% of the assessment of the migratory experience
in the new context.
However when the regression model for predicting life satis-
faction according to city of residence is applied, it is discernible
how the variance percentage indicated is different in each case.
So, in the city of Málaga the variables social support, self-es-
teem, assessment of host culture, social identity and percep-
tion of assessment explain 42.6% of life satisfaction. Madrid,
on the other hand, has three significant variables which would
explain a greater self-evaluation in the new context in 48.3%:
assimilation of host culture, social support and assessment of
host culture. Lastly, for the city of Barcelona the variables assi-
milation of host culture, self-esteem and social support explain
life satisfaction in 33.8%. As shown in the following table,
although for all three cities of residence, social support appears
as one of the factors for predicting life satisfaction in the host
country; in the cities with greater density of population (Madrid
and Barcelona) the principal factor is assimilation of host cul-
ture (Table 5).
Discussions and Conclusions
The migratory experience can be understood as an organic
process which implies important changes in the individual’s
surroundings (García, Martínez, Albar, & Santolaya, 2002;
Martínez, 1997). The person who emigrates from one country
to another should incorporate themselves into a new context, in
which they change their customs, values, rules, positions of
power, language etc. This process has been studied using dif-
ferent models of acculturation with different group and psy-
Table 4.
Regression coefficients of life satisfaction.
Variables of model   R2
Social support 0.485** 0.233
Social support 0.382**
Factor Here 0.311** 0.317
Social support 0.356**
Factor Here 0.261**
Self-esteem 0.178**
Social support 0.299**
Factor Here 0.145*
Self-esteem 0.196**
Assessment of host culture 0.225**
chosocial variables determinant in assessing the migratory pro-
ject of a person who has moved away, and in the end their
well-being in the new context.
In the study, four different psychosocial variables have been
taken into account, and have proven to be relevant in the adap-
tation process for the acculturation models, previously men-
tioned. According to the results, four of the principal factors
that predict a more positive assessment of the migratory ex-
perience and provide a greater level of life satisfaction in the
new context are: social support, the assimilation and assessment
of the host culture, and self-esteem. In other words, among this
group of factors that explain levels of life satisfaction of an
immigrant, is the factor that the immigrant perceives that they
can count on a social network of support contact with the soci-
ety to which they move, value themselves and value positively
the host society. This pattern, although not in the same way, can
also be applied to those factors that predict life satisfaction
according to city of residence; Málaga, Barcelona or Madrid.
The common factor of all three cities is social support, as it is
also the factor that is by far the greatest predictive of life satis-
faction in the city with least inhabitants. Furthermore, the level
of social support perceived, correlates with the rest of the vari-
ables considered: assimilation of host culture and retention of
original culture, self-esteem, social identity, assessment of host
culture and of own culture and perception of assessment. These
Table 5.
Regression coefficients for life satisfaction according to the city of residence.
Málaga Madrid
in model  R2 Variables
in model  R2 Variables
in model  R2
Social support 0.495** 0.238 Assim. Host culture 0.618** 0.375 Assim. Host culture 0.448** 0.191
Social support 0.444** 0.313 Assim. Host culture 0.493** 0.457 Assim. Host culture 0.322* 0.268
Self-esteem 0.288** Social support 0.320** Self-esteem 0.316*
Social support 0.364** 0.369 Assim. Host culture 0.335* 0.483 Assim. Host culture 0.200* 0.338
A.C. Host
0.262* Social support
0.255* Self-esteem
Social support
Social support
A.C Host
Social Identity
Social support
A.C Host
Social Identity
Perc. Assessment
results are in agreement with other distinct studies in our coun-
try (Martínez, 1996; Martínez, 1997; Martínez et al., 1999;
2002; Lila et al., 2007) who also confirm that a social support
network is fundamental to reinterpret the new culture, establish
new ties and acquire new skills that allow a development of a
new social strata, rooted in a welcoming society, encouraging
success with their life project within the new context. Moreover
according to various studies social support occupies a central
position as a determinant social factor in health and psycho-
logical well-being (Cobb, 1976; Cohen, Gottlieb, & Underwood,
2000; Eckersley, Dixon & Douglas, 2001; Gracia, 1997; Mon-
tero, 2003; Ramírez & Cusmille, 1997). This means that if
support resources are important mediators between stressful life
events and health and well-being, in the case of immigrants this
relationship takes on particular relevance (Aroian, 1992; Cohen
& Wills, 1985; Delgado & Humm-Delgado, 1982; Golding &
Baezconde-Garbanati, 1990; Martínez, García, Maya, Rodríguez
& Checa, 1996). From among the diverse mechanisms that
have been proposed in an attempt to explain the beneficial ef-
fects of social support three stand out as having a greater im-
plication during the migratory experience, a sense of belonging,
the exchange of resources and information and the role of pro-
tector, buffer of social support (Hernández et al., 2005).
Another of the main conclusions that can be extracted from
this study is that the assessment of the migratory experience
does not correlate with retention of original culture. Namely,
the act of retaining the culture of the country of origin in the
new place of residence does not related to whether the person
feels more satisfied in the new context. These results contradict
the commonly held view expressed in the classic literature on
models of acculturation, in which the strategy of integration
(retention of original culture and assimilation of host culture) is
the most positive, satisfactory and functional for the immigrant
in this regard. Ward, Bochner and Furham, (2001) maintain that,
certainly in the case of the first generation, that cultural assimi-
lation is associated with fewer problems of adaptation to the
host society and a better emotional state. Moreover as sug-
gested by Basabe, Zoblina and Páez (2004) the bicultural option
(retention of original culture and assimilation of host culture) is
associated with a proper adjustment but requires a greater effort,
that from the beginning it is important to learn about the new
culture. In fact, in two of the three cities (with large populations)
the main factor for life satisfaction is assimilation of the host
society. For this reason, questions such as how to relate to the
native population, speak the language, conform to the cultural
norms of the host country all appear to favour life satisfaction
in the place in question.
To conclude, we determine that those factors which have a
bearing on the level of adaptation in the process of accultura-
tion can also provide clues as to the self-evaluation as person
makes about their migratory experience. However if we only
wish to stress the positive aspects of the process of accultura-
tion, we see some differences. These differences are principally
derived from taking as the central focus, the displaced person
and the perception that they have of their own migratory ex-
perience. Therefore, as Perkins, Palmer and García-Ramírez
(2011), have stated that they reached the conclusion that power
and contextual factors are crucial in the processes and problems
that the three communities involved face, in the migratory
process (migrants, from origin and destination) and as such any
investigation on migrants should respond to the necessities of
the community, be focused on action and positive social change.
This debate aims to draw attention to the necessity of over-
coming certain “culturalism” in research agendas and make
way for studies on psychosocial issues such as psychological
well-being, social integration or reducing discrimination and
prejudice. Therefore, the conclusions drawn from this study
will be relevant for more appropriate social intervention and
successful community service. By knowing which factors are
important for an immigrant to positively evaluate the migratory
experience we can advance in this direction.
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