«The ongoing wars around the world have led to an ever increasing exodus of refugee populations for resettlement in developed countries, including the ...»
Researchers have documented on war trauma and violence, PTSD, and depression with refugee young and adult populations (e.g., Berthold, 2000; Ehntholt et al., 2005;
Ellis et al., 2006; Ferren, 1999; Halcon et al., 2004; Jaranson et al., 2005; Layne et al., 2001; Mghir et al., 1995; Montgomery & Foldspang, 2007; Robertson et al., 2006;
Rousseau et al., 2007; Rousseau et al., 2005; Smith et al., 2002). In these studies, researchers consistently have found the prevalence of PTSD symptoms and other mental health problems among refugees. However, as posited by psychosocial advocates, the ultimate impact of immediate needs (which are critical to refugees in resettlement) is not accounted for in trauma-focused model.
The psychosocial model provides avenues in determining the extent to which availability and/or accessibility to some of the more urgent needs may positively impact adjustment. Clearly, providing for these needs or alleviating the stressors may improve the well-being of refugees in countries of resettlement, a critical aspect to their
refugees in general is rare, with a few important exceptions (Kovacev & Shute, 2004;
Stoll & Johnson, 2008). In these studies, social support has been identified as an important aspect in psychosocial adjustment of adolescent and adult refugees.
Additionally, acculturation (e.g., Bemak, Chung, & Pedersen, 2003; Kovacev & Shute,
2004) also has been documented as being closely linked with social support and psychosocial adjustment. To date, there has been only one empirical study (e.g., Kovacev & Shute, 2004) investigating the three constructs (acculturation, social support, and psychosocial adjustment) with adolescent refugees. In the study, the researchers created and utilized the multicultural acculturation model that has its underpinnings in the psychosocial model/approach to the study of refugees. A discussion of acculturation, social support, and psychosocial adjustment is provided.
The concept of acculturation was first used within the field of anthropology, defined as the process of change and adaptation that results from continuous contact between members of different cultures (Redfield, Linton, & Herskovits, 1936). Two main theories of acculturation have been advanced in the literature: one that proposes an assimilative, “bipolar,” or unidimensional model (e.g., Gordon, 1964); the other, a culturally, plural bidimensional model (e.g., Berry, 1980).
The unidimensional model has been depicted as an assimilative, zero-sum process where minority individuals acquire behaviors and values of the host society (Franco,
is assumed that individuals within a new culture experience a linear progression in changing their identities from their original culture to the mainstream culture. In so doing, it is posited that continuous involvement with the mainstream culture leads to “the disappearance of the ethnic group as a separate entity and the evaporation of its distinctive values” (Gordon, 1964, p. 81). At the core of the disappearance of the original culture is time. That is, as individuals continually immerse in the mainstream culture, aspects of the original culture that distinguished them from others eventually become nonexistent. Over time, individuals become more culturally identified with those from the mainstream culture, an outcome that renders their original cultural values extinct.
The bidimensional model is more inclusive and accommodating of both the original and mainstream cultures. It is believed that individuals are free to be involved in both original and mainstream cultures because people‟s values and self-identity may differ across cultures (Celano & Tyler, 1990; LaFramboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993). The assumption in the model is that individuals may choose to identify themselves with either culture or, for others, none at all. In the literature, one of the most widely used bidimensional approaches is Berry‟s (1997) acculturation framework. Berry (1997; 1995;
1980) defined acculturation as the changes in cultural attitudes, values, and behaviors that result from intercultural contact. As people from different cultures interact with those from the mainstream culture and share their cultural identities, the outcome may be a combination of some aspects of both cultures being adapted or, in some instances, total
Berry conceptualized that at the core of an individual‟s level of acculturation are two fundamental questions: (1) how much of one‟s culture is valued and retained and (2) to what extent positive relations with the dominant culture are sought (Bemak, Chung, & Pedersen, 2002; Nguyen & Eye, 2002; Pedersen et al., 2003; Ryder, Alden, & Paulhus, 2000). These questions lead to four distinct acculturation responses: integration, assimilation, separation, and marginalization (Berry, 1997; Bemak, Chung, & Pedersen, 2003; Sam, 1995). Integration involves maintaining one‟s cultural heritage while endorsing intergroup relations; assimilation involves relinquishing one‟s individual cultural heritage and adopting the beliefs and behaviors of the new culture; separation is the maintenance of one‟s heritage culture without intergroup relations, and marginalization involves nonadherence to either one‟s heritage or the new culture (Berry, 1980; Ryder, Alden, Pahlhus, 2000).
The study of acculturation and adaptation of immigrant adolescents in resettlement is well established (e.g., Birman & Taylor-Ritzler, 2007; Neto, 2002; Oppedal, Roysamb & Heyerdahl, 2005; Pisarenko, 2006; Pfaferrot & Brown, 2006; Virta, Sam, & Westin, 2004). As observed by Berry (1980), empirical evidence from these studies has indicated integration to be the best mode of adjustment in a new cultural environment. Conversely, marginalization has been found to provide the least adaptive way for many adolescents.
Also, other researchers have reported the endorsement of assimilation as being related to lower self esteem among foreign-born adolescents in the United States (Phinney et al.,
protection in the short-term (e.g., Lafromboise, 1993); however, this option may have long-term risks if an individual fails to interact and be involved with the host society.
In the literature, studies investigating acculturation and psychosocial adjustment with adolescent refugees are minimal. Kovacev and Shute (2004) is a notable exception. They found acculturation and social support to be closely intertwined in the overall psychosocial adjustment of adolescents. Studies targeting African adolescent refugees are even scarcer. Therefore, using Kovacev and Shute‟s multicultural acculturation model, this study will investigate acculturation, psychosocial adjustment, and social support among African adolescent refugees resettled in the US. It could be that this focus may yield similar findings (e.g., as with adolescent refugees from former Yugoslavia and immigrant adolescents from different cultural contexts) in the resettlement.
In the study on the psychosocial adjustment of refugee adolescents from former Yugoslavia resettled in Australia, Kovacev and Shute (2004) used the multicultural acculturation model to identify the factors that influenced psychosocial adjustment. In the model, they proposed that social support from parents, classmates, and close friends was influenced by an individual‟s social context. This context includes attitudes of teachers, students, and other people within the community towards refugees in general. For example, adolescent refugees who perceive positive attitudes from people in their environments (i.e., school and community) may be able to experience successful
potentially could encounter difficulties that may hinder or delay their psychosocial adjustment. Importantly, based on a review of the literature, acculturation attitudes (i.e., integration, assimilation, separation, and marginalization) developed in the host country were seen as important predictors of psychosocial adjustment. In the model, integration was thought to lead to positive outcomes in adjustment followed by assimilation.
Separation and marginalization were thought to yield negative adjustment outcomes,
It also was suggested in the model that acculturation attitudes are influenced by a host of factors, including adolescents‟ pre-migrational experiences (i.e., war and losses), coping mechanisms, attitudes and values, the nature of the prevailing host society, demographic factors (i.e., age, gender, time spent in the host country) and social
host society, a “pluralistic” society (i.e., that provided different options to refugees for adapting in a new environment) would be favorable in determining the level of acculturation and eventual adjustment. Such a society may be open to refugee involvement and participation in mainstream activities such as social networks provided through refugee centers in the country. This would be in contrast to a “monolithic” society that fosters exclusion and creation of boundaries between the members of the host culture and new comers (Kovacev and Shute, 2004). Overall, it was proposed that acculturation attitudes determined the level of social support adolescents received and/or perceived from their peers and parents which then influenced successful adjustment or negative maladjustment in the resettlement (Kovacev & Shute, 2004). In the model, psychosocial adjustment was measured by global self-worth and peer social acceptance.
Using this model in their study, Kovacev and Shute (2004) mainly focused on parental and peer social support. Findings indicated that adolescents with more close friends/peers had better adjustment levels than those who did not. Also, parents were important in the lives of young refugees and contributed to their adjustment; however, the majority of adolescent refugees seemed to favor peer over parental support. In the literature, acculturation and social support have been identified as two important aspects in psychosocial adjustment of refugees (Bemak, Chung, & Pedersen, 2003; Stoll &
The concept of social support has been researched within different conceptual and methodological contexts (e.g., psychological, psychiatric, physiological, and mental health) with both young and adult populations. In the literature, social support has been addressed with different terminologies, such as social bonds, companionship, social networks, presence of confidants, and meaningful social interactions (Brown et al., 1975;
Cassel, 1976; Henderson, 1977, Mueller, 1980). There has been little consensus regarding the definition of social support by different researchers and theorists due to the various individual meanings attached to the concept, and also the different cultural backgrounds of individuals.
Harter (1985) defined social support as the acceptance or positive regard an individual receives from others (e.g., family members, peers, and members of the community). Warren, Jackson and Sifers (2009) conceptualized social support as a multidimensional construct that consists of relationships, perceptions, and transactions that help individuals master emotional distress, share tasks, receive advice, learn skills, and obtain material assistance (p. 107).
Thus, despite the lack of agreement on a specific definition, at the core of all the conceptual underpinnings and differences in meanings is the central role of human relationships and interactions and their importance in the midst of difficult or stressful situations (Turner, Frankel, & Levin, 1983). For example, early research with general adult populations at work and patients with psychiatric conditions indicated that social
1981). It also has been found to be an important resource for individuals undergoing difficult life events, depression, and chronic life stressors (Pearlin et al., 1981). Harter‟s (1988) definition of social support will be utilized in this study because the need to be accepted and positively regarded by others are critical aspects during adolescent development, perhaps even more so for refugee adolescents undergoing life changing transitions in a new environment.
Social Support and Adolescent Adjustment In general, the salience of social support in adolescents‟ adjustment and development, particularly during and/or after stressful events has been established in the literature.
During such stressful times, social support has been closely linked with adolescents‟ well-being and overall adaptation. For example, in a study to examine social support provisions in relation to negative life events, Warren et al. (2009) used a sample of 103 ethnically diverse inner city youths (ages 11-14). Results from the study indicated that differences in the social support provisions accounted for different adaptive outcomes in boys and girls. Amongst boys, it was observed that availability of guidance (e.g., from caregivers and authority figures) and general information highly predicted their adaptability outcomes.
During negative life events, it seems important that, for boys, the need for trustworthy persons to reach out to them (e.g., to obtain advice, secure answers to questions, and provide guidance in decision-making process) becomes urgent. In relation to girls, it was found that reliability of caregivers and reassurance of worth strongly predicted their
knowledge that there were people they could rely on whenever they needed any form of help, and also that their social support network was comprised of persons who appreciated them and encouraged them to believe in themselves.