Volume 29, Issue 3 (2000)
Reciprocal Distancing: A Systems Model of Interpersonal Processes in Cross-Cultural Consultation
Sharone L. Maital
Abstract: Reciprocal distancing is proposed to explain interpersonal processes that lead to persistent problem behavior following cross-cultural transitions such as immigration. Forces at multiple levels of the ecological system influence mutual disengagement of challenging children, school staff, and the consultee. A longitudinal consultation project with teachers in an early education program for Ethiopian immigrant children in Israel is presented to illustrate the application of the reciprocal distancing model in cross-cultural consultation.Evidence for disengagement as well as joining of teachers and challenging children despite frustration and difficulty was found. “Joiners” were more committed to their work, aware of cultural beliefs, tolerant of diversity, and sought integration rather than assimilation as the goal of acculturation. Group consultation was particularly effective in influencing the co-construction of a shared, system-wide pluralistic culture and reduced distancing.
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