SRA 2010 - Culture helps make good decisions


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  • one of the most consistent findings is that refugee children’s adjustment is related to the support they receive from their parents and how well their parents cope with adverse circumstances (Ajdukovic & Ajdukovic, 1993; Farwell, 2001; Joshi, 2003; Shaw, 2003).In particular, research has shown that parents provide the closest link to an immigrant children’s native culture (Lee & Chen, 2000).
  • Immigrant and refugee adaptation and assimilation has been an issue studied by social science scholars since the 1920s, following the high point of the earlier wave of large-scale immigration.Most immigration researchers today agree that earlier conceptualizations of assimilation, largely based on the earlier wave of European immigrants, need to be reframed in light of the different circumstances facing the post-1965 “New Immigrants.” However, maintaining the native culture alone is not enough. It is also important for immigrants and refugees to learn the new ways of life. Research has shown that a bicultural orientation has been shown to have favorable effect on both educational and psychosocial outcomes. Research has shown that a bicultural orientation has been shown to have favorable effect on both educational and psychosocial outcomes. To conclude, research has shown that having a bicultural orientation, especially a strong ethnic identity rooted in the parents’ cultural of origin, is associated with decreasing parent-child conflict and increasing parent-child relations
  • In this paper, we draw on in-depth interview data with a unique group of unaccompanied Sudanese minors, mostly boys, to examine issues of acculturation and adaptation.
  • First, all of our participants had experienced horrendous and protracted episodes of trauma before arriving in the U.S. and many had PTSD  and other health concerns.  From Laura’s 2005 Child Welfare paper: “their mean scores on a PTSD scale was more than twice as high as children experiencing a single traumatic event (Foa et al., 2001)” Second, ambiguous loss was a major struggle for the great majority of our participants, who did not know if their family members were alive or dead (see Luster et al., 2009). The lack of parental guidance or support was also difficult for the youth when they first arrived. Foster parents mentioned that the youth received many requests for remittances from Africa, and responding to all those requests would have required much more money than any of the youth had. Balancing education, work, and the pressure to send money home was a struggle for most of our participants. Many send a substantial share of their income back home to support their families left behind, to pay medical bills, to reunite family members after decades of separation. s
  • Our sample is somewhat biased – mainly well adapted youth When asked what helped them adapt in the new land, the strongest theme that cut across the majority of the youth interviews was the importance of maintaining their Sudanese culture. The youth who did best tend to remember and gain strength from their native Sudanese culture and blend it with the U.S. culture, engaging in a process of what we call cultural appropriation. Below, we discuss different ways this helped them in their adaptation after resettlement.
  • In their process of adaptation, the great majority of youth in our sample actively preserved their memories of things they went through before coming to the U.S., maintained their connection to their native Sudanese culture and preserved it in different ways.When asked what helped them adapt, the majority of the 19 youth interviewed mentioned the importance of “remembering where we came from.”
  • remarks clearly illustrate what Ogbu termed the “dual frame of reference” that immigrants have – this sense of always comparing the circumstance in their host country with those of their countries of origin. This comparison often enables our participants to view their new circumstances with a strong sense of “immigrant optimism”— that they will value the newfound opportunities here and overcome whatever challenges to succeed in the new land. In the interviews, our participated noted that not many people in Sudan had this opportunity, so it was important for them individually to make the most of it.Part of this immigrant optimism for our Sudanese participants also included the sense that because they had overcome so much in their lives, they expected that things would work out well in the new land, especially if they worked hard. This strong sense of optimism originated both from their inner strength, which might also have helped them to survive the horrendous traumas they went through, and the comparison of the “here and now” with the “back and then.”
  • The youth who adjusted well all maintained a strong focus on why they came here. They maintained a very strong bond with Sudan because their families live there. As a result, they developed a very strong sense of purpose and cause after migration to help those who were less fortunate. This remembrance kept them from being too Americanized , keep them rooted in their own culture and sense of purpose.
  • The youth often contrasted becoming Americanized with maintaining their Sudanese culture and perspectives with the former being viewed as negative for their adaptation. Our participants noted that while America is a land of many wonderful new opportunities, it is also a land with many distractions for the growing youth. Some of the youth we interviewed talked about how the American culture exposed them to many things that were not good to them, such as alcohol, partying, drugs, and losing focus on school and life.
  • Those youth who do well make good choices guided by their own principles s
  •  Some of the youth who were not doing as well  saw the U.S. way of living as fun and helpful for them to cope with their stress. Or immersed themselves more in US culture as a way to avoid the stresses and trauma associated with their homeland
  • Paul, an older youth in his mid 20s said poignantly,When we came from Africa, we came as different in age… for example, I am 24 right now….I don’t exactly know how old I was for sure, and I feel like I have more of my culture that I still have right, then I, I didn’t give it up and I know how it work and … I’m  not going to forget it…I had mature level when I was back home, maturity, I was mature enough inside or maybe… I know the culture, my culture what, what to do, what is wrong and what not to do which is wrong. So when we came here, we came in different level. There are people that when we came, we, also even if there are people that can say, “don’t do this”, I mean, if it come to a point of this argument, this place is a freedom place, you are free in anything and I think people that came with that mind took freedom wrongly. They come and see what young people do here and just run after that and I don’t think whether it’s the life here, even most of young people that are acting that way, it’s not the same way.Besides, there may be a reason why they act that way we were not raised that way.Paul’s remarks also pointed to the importance of age of arrival in the adaptation of the youth. For older youth like Paul, they were already in their late teens when they arrived. Thus, most of them had enough Sudanese culture in them already , which made it hard for them to sway in the face of new temptations of another culture. For youth like Paul, their strong Sudanese identity protected them from the risks in the new land. However, for those who arrived at a much younger age, they were more likely to be assimilated into all aspects of the U.S. culture, especially the youth culture.  Had established a more crystallized Sudanese cultural identity
  • While it was very important to maintain the Sudanese culture and identity after arriving in the U.S., our participants also mentioned the importance of adapting to their new life. It was especially important to …Only sticking with the Sudanese peers was mentioned as a hinderance to acculturation and accommodation.Thus while it was crucial to remember why they came here and maintain the Sudanese culture in guiding their behaviors in the new land, it was also important to “get out of their comfort zone” to create opportunities to learn the new culture. Indeed, the youth needed to learn a host of new things after resettling in this drastically different cultural environment, for example, learning English and learning things like paying bills. Foster parents and native peers act as culural brokers for the boys
  • Compared to native minorities, they had a very positive perception of the people in the U.S. Peter, a youth who has achieved considerable academic and athletic success, mentioned that it was important to Trusting others and asking for help was considered very important
  • While previous researchers have noted the process of immigrants accommodating to the new culture by learning the necessary skills without full assimilation (Gibson, 1988), the Sudanese youth in our study engaged in a slightly different process of what we call…Our participants noted that there are good things and bad things in both cultures.
  • Daniel, a youth who had recently returned to Sudan for a visit, explained how he has negotiated between the two cultures,
  • For example, Amal, one of the few girls in our study, said: Anal clearly laid out the three groups of cultural orientation and accutluration or adjustment in the boys and the advantage of cultural blending and hybridity. Thus, those who became completely Americanized or strictly maintained their Sudanese culture were both viewed as less successful. Furthermore, according to Amal, to be successful, one had to be flexible and adaptable.
  • The Sudanese youth in our group had very They survived a lot of traumatic events before arriving in the U.S. After arrival, most of them managed to adapt quite well without the guidance of their biological parents. In this paper, we examined the cultural adaptation experiences of these youth. Having a strong root in their native culture and identity helped them make good choices, maintain focused, and avoid distractions associated with negative aspects of the U.S. youth culture. Our findings indicate that The youth also mentioned the importance of learning the new ways. As a result, those who maintain their native culture and combine it with the positive aspect of the U.S. culture were the ones who did best in their adaptation. These youth engaged in a process of – taking the best from both cultures and combining them. Compared to their counterparts who stayed in their Sudanese peer group and those who immediately took to the U.S. culture, these youth did better both in educational outcomes and in their psychosocial adaptation. Our findings confirm previous findings on immigrant and refugee youth with parents that a bicultural orientation is the best for adaptation.
  • The Sudanese youth, despite their refugee status, shared In Ogbu’s original categorization, refugees do not fit very well with either voluntary or involuntary immigrants. They are a distinct group because of their experience of being pushed out of their native country.  The strong connection to home also provides the Sudanese youth in our study with a strong anchor in their native culture and identity. Our results have practical implications for the adaptation of refugee and immigrant adaptation. It is important for service providers, resettlement agencies and foster parents to provide opportunities for them to both connect and maintain their native culture and provide support and resources to learn the new culture.
  • SRA 2010 - Culture helps make good decisions

    1. 1. "My Culture Helps Me Make Good Decisions": Cultural Appropriation and Adaptation of Sudanese Refugee Youth<br />Desiree Baolian Qin, Andy J. Saltarelli, Laura Bates, MeenalRana, Jung Ah Lee, Deborah J. Johnson, Thomas Luster<br />
    2. 2. Research Gap <br />Growing research on the experiences of children and youth after migration or resettlement<br />Nearly all focuses on children and youth accompanied by their parents<br />Key role played by immigrant and refugee parents <br />We know little of the unique experiences of unaccompanied refugee youngsters<br />
    3. 3. Immigrant Adaptation and Assimilation: Theoretical Considerations<br />Straight-line assimilation(Park, 1924)<br />Accommodation without assimilation (Gibson, 1988)<br />Segmented assimilation(Portes & Zhou, 1993)<br />Positive role of parental culture and key role played by immigrant parents<br />
    4. 4. Key Questions <br />What happens to children when they do not have the support of their parents in a totally unfamiliar land? Is their native culture important to them? How do they maintain their native culture? How do they negotiate the different cultures in the absence of parental support? <br />
    5. 5. Methods <br />Participants: 19 youths and foster parents <br />Procedures<br />Interviews with youth<br />Interviews with parents <br />Data analysis: <br />Open, axial, and selective coding <br />
    6. 6. Findings: Unique Challenges <br />Horrendous episodes of trauma before arriving in the U.S.<br />Ambiguous loss was a major struggle<br />Balancing education, work, and the pressure to send money home was a common struggle <br />
    7. 7. Findings: Overall Adaptation <br />Mixed: those who adapted well and those who struggled<br />All the youths we interviewed completed their high school education and all but three were enrolled in college. <br />
    8. 8. Connection to Home and Preserving the Culture: “Remembering Where We Came From” <br />“Uh, I see myself as… I will never forget my culture. I see my culture very important as a lot influence to do with who I am and if I leave that then I don’t even know where to start. I mean, I willbe like, ‘where do I go, OK, I’m now in America, where do I go now?’ I mean I would be lost, but I think I know in my culture and knowing where I came from kind of…I know I will go back, I know I can see family.” (Samuel)<br />
    9. 9. “Remembering Where We Came From” <br />First, this connection to their home country provides a sense of “immigrant optimism” (Ogbu, 1987) and motivates them to succeed<br /> - “Yeah I think what helped me to be successful was the thing that I went through you know, it was not easy coming from back Sudan … where there was no education, no nothing, it was different, completely different and my high expectation was if I get a chance to go to school, I will do what I can to be educated person. Yeah so I was having that in my mind, so whenever I do something I think about my background, how did I come here and why am I here? So all these questions helped me to, to formulate what I will do” (Daniel) <br />
    10. 10. Connection to Home and Preserving the Culture: “Remembering Where We Came From” <br />Second, the connection and memory of home gave them a strong sense of focus, cause and purpose in their life in the U.S.<br />Those who do not do well in their adjustment tend to forget what they came here for and lost this sense of purpose<br /> “What made it hard for them, they don’t thinkof what have happened to them. You know what have happened to them back and there’s no point that you have crossed, you could have come all the way from here and then come and forget about what you are going here and, and you don’t appreciate what other people do to you as American people. They brought us up here, they didn’t brought us up here so that we can spoil it. They brought us up here so that we can have a future and that future we can take it back and train our peoples and reverse it back, you know, to our people.” (Marko) <br />
    11. 11. Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized<br />Becoming Americanized viewed as negative for their adaptation <br />The U.S. as a land of distractions for the growing youth <br />“’ve got so many opportunities here, but at the same time there are some many distractions here.” (Peter)<br />
    12. 12. Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized<br /><ul><li>“Yeah, there’s … a small principle that guides me not to get into something new for me and do it. It simply guides me not to say, ‘Okay Daniel, let’s not do this.’ I have like two different person in me, there’s a person guiding me from doing something that will cut my future short and all those kind of things, there’s a lot of things so I kind of make decision. When I made a decision I made it and I just follow, stay on it there and keep doing it…My culture helps me make good decisions.” (Daniel)</li></li></ul><li>Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized<br />Those who were less successful forgot why they came here and they took too much of the U.S. culture.<br />“But some of them took too much of American culture and those are the ones that are not going to school …cause they forgot about where they came from before like how bad was it in Sudan that it is important to go to school and you know getting your degrees so that you won’t have to live in the way you used to... “(Amal)<br />Coping with stress <br /> - “Some made new friends and got caught up in American ways sort of thing and then start living the American way cause, if they felt like it was a way to exit from stress and some others never did that good on that. Some still go to school, they still socialize, but others just got caught up in the money kind of thing and having good time and avoiding all the stress.” (William) <br />
    13. 13. Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized<br />The newfound freedom in the U.S. and being away from their own community and the supervision of their elders also contributed to some of the youths’ picking up unhealthy living styles<br />“back home we have closed culture, our culture is very closed and it’s a culture that if I do something and you see…I’m going to be in big, big trouble. And if that happen, then I have to be disciplined by the people, people will come, “why do you do this, your family is not like that, you do this instead, this is what we do, if you don’t know we are going to show you how to do it”... But when we came here, we don’t have that anymore. We came into the freedom, this is the freedom. So freedom, you can do whatever you want…They are not worried about it the community anymore because there’s no, their people right here that can hold them accountable…” (Paul) <br />Two distinct groups<br />“One of the things that separated these Lost Boys into two groups is how they adapt to the American culture like someone just got straight into the American culture and all of the sudden they forgot where they came from. They forgot what their goal is, why they came in United States…they forgot where they are going.” (John) <br />
    14. 14. Making Good Choices: Not Becoming Too Americanized<br />Age of arrival matters<br />“When we came from Africa, we came as different in age… for example, I am 24 right now…, and I feel like I have more of my culture that I still have right then.I didn’t give it up and I know how it work and … I’m  not going to forget it…” (Paul) <br />
    15. 15. Accommodation <br />Not always stick with their Sudanese peer group in order to acculturate to the new culture.<br />“One of the problems I see in special negative area is we lost boys came here in clusters together where we speak the same language. … I went to Dansville. It forces me to learn English because I was the only one; [I] had no option. … I hang out with more white folks than some of the lost boys. Some of the lost boys regretted that they were clustered together… they kind of isolate themselves … Get out of your comfort zone. Make obviously good choices.” (John) <br />Key instrumental support from foster parents and native peers<br />
    16. 16. Accommodation <br />Immigrant optimism gives some of them the lens of appreciation, trust, and openness in receiving help form people here <br /> “...listen careful and take advantage, there are so many people helping you out there, so just listen to them, if you need help, just go to anybody, Caucasian, African American just, say I need, I don’t know this, just help, help me.”(Peter) <br />
    17. 17. Accommodation <br />Willingness to listen and try: <br />“Listening to what somebody’s offering you and actually take it and try it. Or you can think about it first before you try it, if you don’t like it, then don’t do it. If you really need help, you can try it and if it don’t work, you can even go back to that person and say ‘I tried this way and it don’t work, is there any other ideas that you can give me?’ And that’s what helped people that are really successful right now, is they understand and they take it and they try; if it don’t work they ask for help. And people that are not doing too good now are people that don’t ask.” (David) <br />
    18. 18. Cultural Appropriation <br />“cultural appropriation,” a new form of cultural production that combines the good things from the American culture with the good things from their native Sudanese culture<br />A process of conscious selective acculturation and cultural hybridity. <br />
    19. 19. Cultural Appropriation <br />“I’m kind of in between two cultures now and I’m trying to make two things work together, I’ve become an American and in the bowl of culture I’m mixing it back and forth you know, get good things here and good things there and I think I’ve become like a hybrid between two cultures you know and these two cultures make me, I’m making good thing out of it, the way I look at it.” (Daniel) <br />
    20. 20. Cultural Appropriation <br />This helps their adjustment<br />“you know you were from a different culture and you lived in a different culture. So you have to adjust to it and actually take a little bit of each and then put it together. That’s the only way you can manage to live in America. I think personally cause that’s how I did it…The ones that are doing well are the ones that take a little bit of each culture and the ones which are not doing well are the one that are sticking to the Sudanese culture, I think. But some of them took too much of American culture and those are the ones that are not going to school…James, he is, he took both, like he has a little bit of Sudanese in him and a little bit of American culture and he is flexible with everything. So he is doing well.  And some of my friends that I know, they everything is Americanized like they just want, you know doing parties, don’t go to school.” (Amal) <br />
    21. 21. Discussion<br />Unique experiences both before and after arriving in the U.S.<br />Their native culture played a key role in their adaptation. <br />Our findings also illustrate a new process of cultural creation and blending and a flexible orientation.   <br />
    22. 22. Discussion <br />Similar adaptation experiences with “voluntary immigrants” (Ogbu, 1987)<br />“immigrant optimism” <br />dual frame of reference <br />Strong connection to home and a strong sense of cause to help those left behind<br />Practical implications for the adaptation of refugee and immigrant adaptation<br />