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Elaine Congress Revisits Culturagram in New Book Chapter


Fordham GSS Associate Dean and Professor Elaine Congress, DSW, has recently authored a book chapter in an upcoming volume on the psychosocial experiences and adjustments of migrants coming to the United States. 

Congress’s chapter is titled “The Culturagram Matrix: Domains of Migration Identities” and appears in Part I: Issues and Themes of the upcoming work, Psychosocial Experiences and Adjustments of Migrants Coming to the USA. Grant J. Rich, Judy Kuriansky, Uwe P. Gielen, and Daniel Kaplin were the book’s editors. The book publishes on Tuesday, August 1, 2023. 

Congress’s chapter title is in reference to her creation, the Culturagram, which she developed in the 1990s to help social workers and others understand better families from different cultural backgrounds. 

The Culturagram consists of ten areas:

  1. reason for relocation
  2. legal status
  3. time in community
  4. language spoken at home and in the community
  5. health beliefs
  6. impact of trauma and crisis events
  7. contact with cultural and religious institutions, holidays, food, and clothing
  8. oppression, discrimination, bias, and racism
  9. values about education and work
  10. values about family – structure, power, myths, and rules
a picture of the culturagram diagram. in the middle is "family." the ten areas surround the "family" box, each connected in pairs of 2 or 3. the first pair is "time in the community and legal status." going clockwise, the next trio is "language spoken at home and in the community," "health beliefs," and "impact of trauma and crisis events." the next pair is "contact with cultural and religious food and institutions, holidays, food and clothing," and "oppression and discrimination bias and racism." the next trio is "values about education and work," "values about family structure, power, myths and rules," and reasons for relocating."

The Culturagram

Congress spoke further about the tool’s development in a 2008 interview on The Social Work Podcast

“…before I entered academia…I worked in a mental health clinic primarily with Latino clients, and I became increasingly aware of how different clients were, even clients from different Latino backgrounds, and I realized that many people make generalizations and stereotypes about all Latino families are this or that, and also a lot of our literature speaks about characteristics of Latino families. I just realized how different families were, and for example, in the morning I would work with a Puerto Rican family who had been in New York City for 20 years, and then that afternoon I would work with a Mexican family who had just arrived last week. You could call both families Hispanic, but they were very very different. So this really influenced me in terms of developing the Culturagram to really help individualize these families. I also found that even two Puerto Rican families were very very different, and the Culturagram seemed in a way to help really look at some of the differences between families even from the same ethnic background.”

Read more about Psychosocial Experiences and Adjustments of Migrants Coming to the USA.


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