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«The ongoing wars around the world have led to an ever increasing exodus of refugee populations for resettlement in developed countries, including the ...»

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KITEKI, BELLAH NANJEKHO, Ph.D. Acculturation and Psychosocial Adjustment of

African Adolescent Refugees in the United States: The Role of Social Support. (2011)

Directed by L. DiAnne Borders. 214 pp.

The ongoing wars around the world have led to an ever increasing exodus of refugee

populations for resettlement in developed countries, including the U.S. Importantly, it has

been estimated that the bulk of these refugees in resettlement countries are comprised of

children and adolescents under the age of 18 (Halcon et al., 2004; United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, 2007). Previous research (e.g., Ellis, Macdonald, Lincoln, & Cabral, 2008; Layne et al., 2001; Smith, Perrin, Yule, Hacam, & Stuvland,

2002) mainly has focused on past traumatic experiences, diagnoses, and treatment modalities. An important link between acculturation, social support, and adolescent refugees‟ adjustment within new environments has been established (e.g., Kovacev & Shute, 2004). These aspects have not been examined, however, with African adolescent refugees in the U.S.

Using a sample of African adolescent refugees (N = 70) in a mid-sized city in the Southeast, this study examined acculturation, social support, and psychosocial adjustment among African adolescent refugees from different African countries resettled in the U.S.

Results indicated a strong relationship between social support and psychosocial adjustment. Both peer and parental support were central in the adjustment of adolescents.

Furthermore, exploratory analyses showed there were main effects for time lived in the U.S. Results showed that, overall, for both boys and girls, time spent in the U.S. was associated with higher scores.




by Bellah Nanjekho Kiteki A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of The Graduate School at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy Greensboro 2011 Approved by __________________________________

Committee Chair © 2011 Bellah Nanjekho Kiteki


This dissertation has been approved by the following committee of the Faculty of The Graduate School at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Committee Chair _____________________________________

L. DiAnne Borders Committee Members _____________________________________

Sharon Morrison _____________________________________

–  –  –

First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my dissertation committee chair Dr. DiAnne Borders for her continued support and challenge that helped me to grow as a teacher and supervisor and come this far. Many thanks to my dissertation committee members: Dr. Sharon Morrison, Dr. Jose Villalba, and Dr. John Willse for their input and suggestions during my journey as a doctoral student. Also I thank the entire CED faculty members led by the Department chair Dr. John Young for stepping in to ensure that my course of study was not affected at the lowest moment of my life late 2009. Also my sincere thanks to Dr. Rebecca Saunders (Rtd), Assistant Dean of the Graduate School for her continued support for my graduate studies.

Many thanks to my cohort members: Ali W; Alli F; Amber, Elizabeth, Gulsah, Metoka, Laura, Holly, and Katie for being in this together. Specifically, I would like to thank Gulsah Kemer, my peer as an international student within the cohort. To all my true and sincere friends, I am forever grateful for your support and friendship. Most importantly, I thank God for his strength through my studies. Last but not least, I sincerely thank my parents for the sacrifices made in life without which I wouldn‟t be where I am.

–  –  –




Overview of Related Literature

Purpose of the Study

Statement of the Problem

Research Questions

Need for Study

Definition of Terms

Overview of Chapters


Refugees in the Resettlement

African Refugees in Resettlement

Adolescent Refugees in Resettlement

African Adolescent Refugees

Adolescent Developmental Tasks

The Concept of Ubuntugogy within African Context

African Child Rearing Practices, Values, and Beliefs..................54 Impact of Migration on African Adolescent Refugees..................57 Psychosocial Adjustment of Refugees


The Multicultural Acculturation Model

Social Support

Social Support and Adolescent Adjustment

Social Support and Adolescent Refugees

Social Support and African Refugees



Research Questions and Hypotheses


iv Instrumentation

Acculturation Attitudes Questionnaire (AAQ, Berry et al., 2006)

Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents (SPPA, Harter, 1988)

Social Support Scale for Children (SSSC, Harter, 1985)

Demographic Questionnaire


Pilot Study

Data Analysis

Results of Pilot Study

Revisions Based on Pilot Study


Description of Participants

Descriptive Results of Measures

Reliability Analyses of Instruments

Research Question One

Hypothesis one

Research Question Two

Hypothesis two

Research Question Three

Hypothesis three

Research Question Four

Hypothesis four

Research Question Five

Hypothesis five


Follow-up/Exploratory Tests


Summary of the Results of the Study

Interpretation of Results


Suggestions for Future Research

Implications for Counselors and Practitioners



–  –  –

Table 1. Demographic Descriptors for Pilot Study (N=12)

Table 2. Means and Standard Deviations of Measures for Pilot Study (N=12)

Table 3. Reliability Coefficients of Measures for Pilot Study

Table 4. Pearson Product-Moment Correlations of Measures for Pilot Study (N=12)

Table 5. Demographic Descriptors of Participants for Main Study (N=70)

Table 6. Participant Demographic Descriptors (continued)

Table 7. Range of Scores, Means, and Standard Deviations of Measures (N=70)

Table 8. Range of Scores, Means, and Standard Deviations by Age (N=70)

Table 9. Range of Scores, Means, and Standard Deviations by Gender (N=70)

Table 10. Range of Scores, Means, and Standard Deviations by Region/Country of Origin

Table 11. Range of Scores, Means, and Standard Deviations by Duration of Stay in the U.

S. (N=70)

Table 12. Reliability Alpha Coefficients of Instruments

Table 13. Pearson Product-Moment Correlation of Instruments (N=70)

Table 14. Comparison of Correlations between Social Support and Psychosocial Adjustment

Table 15. Comparison of Correlations between Acculturation Attitudes and Psychosocial Adjustment

vii Table 16. Comparison of Correlations among Acculturation Attitudes and Social Support

Table 17. Disattenuated Correlations of Measures (N=70)

Table 18. Multiple Regression Analysis of Acculturation Attitudes and Psychosocial Adjustment

Table 19. Multiple Regression Analysis of Social Support and Psychosocial Adjustment

Table 20. Factoral ANOVA Results for Duration of Stay in the U.


and Gender (N=70)

–  –  –

Figure 1. Kovacev and Shute‟s (2004) Conceptual Model of Adolescent Pyschosocial Adjustment

Figure 2. Kovacev and Shute‟s (2004) Conceptual Model of Adolescent Pyschosocial Adjustment

Figure 3. Type of Friends and Duration of Stay in the U.

S. (N=12)

Figure 4. Burundi

Figure 5. DRC

Figure 6. Rwanda

Figure 7. Somali

Figure 8. Sudan

–  –  –

There has been an increase in political instabilities and unrest around the world, culminating in conflicts and wars, particularly in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. These instabilities have led to inter-tribal clashes and cleansings and general suffering of the civilian population (Bemak, Chung, & Pedersen, 2003). The causes of instability have ranged from challenging the political status quo, socioeconomic inequalities between and /or amongst members of different communities, or general greed amongst those in power. In the bid to either create a balance or change the existing political statuses, many countries have been plunged into wars. The wars have had a farreaching impact, including destruction of the existing social amenities and infrastructure, death of many civilians, and, the displacement of civilians from their homelands within and beyond the borders of their countries. Although the majority of these civilians remain within their countries of origin and eventually flee to other neighboring countries (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, 2007), there also has been a mass exodus of refugees to other industrialized or developed nations. To this effect, by the end of 2008, the UNHCR (2008) estimated the number of people forcibly uprooted from their countries of origin by conflicts, persecutions, and wars worldwide at 42 million.

The UNHCR commonly has referred to civilians seeking refuge in other countries as

–  –  –

some conditions, internally displaced persons. The numbers of “persons of concern” in areas of resettlement, from Asia to North America, Europe, as well as Africa, has been on the rise during the last decade (UNHCR, 2007). Notably, since 2006, there has been an increase in the numbers of refugees under the responsibility of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR, 2006). By the end of 2006, while the total population of “persons of concern” was estimated at 32.9 million persons, 9.9 million were refugees (UNHCR, 2006). These figures rose steadily to 11.4 million and 16 million refugees by the end of 2007 and 2008, respectively. According to the UNHCR, by the end of 2006 the highest source of origin of refugees was Asia, followed by Africa. Since the end of 2006 (e.g., UNHCR, 2007), there has been an increased surge of refugees seeking asylum from African countries; among the highest beneficiaries of UNHCR resettlement programs were persons from Somalia (5,200 refugees), Sudan (2,900 refugees), and Democratic Republic of Congo (2,000 refugees).

Importantly, the bulk of the refugee populations are children and adolescents (Halcon et al., 2004) who are considered an at-risk-group (Bemak et al., 2003). They are considered at-risk due to the adverse psychological impact caused by the disruption of their developmental processes in the course of wars and upheavals. Statistics indicate that many children and adolescents die, are disabled and maimed, orphaned, or separated from their caregivers as a result of war (United Nations Children‟s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, 1996). UNICEF (2005) reported an estimated 2 million children and

–  –  –

ranged between 4 to 5 million, 12 million had been made homeless, and 1 million had either been orphaned or separated from their parents.

Despite the difficulties encountered during wars, some children and adolescents manage to survive the atrocities (e.g., Amone P‟O-lak, 2007; Halcon et al., 2004) and are rescued by humanitarian agencies for resettlement in other countries. It has been found that children and adolescents under the age of 18 years old constitute approximately onehalf of the entire worldwide refugee population (UNHCR, 2003; 2004; 2006). Although age specific information across all refugee groups is either partial, scant, or unavailable, it has been estimated that out of the total number of persons of concern, 45% are under the age of 18 and 11% are under the age of five (UNHCR, 2006). In this category, there are a sizeable number of adolescent refugees from Africa in countries of resettlement.

Unfortunately, few studies on adjustment of adolescent refugees from Africa have been conducted.

–  –  –

Existing research on adolescents in resettlement has been carried out primarily with immigrant groups who have been resettled in European countries, with a focus on their acculturation strategies and adaptation (e.g., Birman & Taylor-Ritzler, 2007; Birman, Trickett, & Buchanan, 2005; Motii-Stefanidi, Pavlopoulos, Obradovic, & Masten, 2008;

Neto, 2002; Pfafferott & Brown, 2006; Sam, 1995; 2000). Even with studies on immigrant adolescents, a focus on African immigrants is still minimal. In some studies of

–  –  –

adolescents with adolescents from other cultural backgrounds (e.g., Liebkind & Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000; Oppedal, Roysamb, & Heyerdal, 2005) or studied both African adolescents and adults together (e.g., Stevens, Pels, Vollebergh, & Crijnen, 2004).

In other studies (e.g., Rousseau et al., 2007; Rousseau et al., 2005), immigrants and refugees have been lumped into the same group. Only a few researchers have studied or reviewed the literature (e.g., Kia-Keating & Ellis, 2007; Kimberly, Ehntholt, Smith, & Yule, 2005; Lustig et al., 2004; Montegomery & Foldspang, 2007) focused on adolescent refugees. Although immigrants and refugees share the common aspect of being newcomers in new environments, their experiences prior to and during resettlement differ markedly. One of these differences is the forced circumstances of departure for refugees, whereas immigrants voluntarily leave with an option of returning to their home countries.

Thus, there is need to study refugees and immigrants separately. Importantly, a focus on African adolescent refugees may be helpful in understanding some of their critical needs during the stressful period of resettlement and adjustment to a new way of life in the host country.

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