Growing up Between Cultures
: Ethnic Identity Development and Mental Health amongst British-born Children of Immigrants from Turkey

  • Duygu Cavdar

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

Identity formation during adolescence plays an essential role in seeking an answer to the question of “who am I”. This fundamental period of self-understanding is particularly challenging for ethnic minority youth from immigrant families as they negotiate between two divergent cultural worlds: their heritage culture and their society of settlement. Alongside this negotiation, second-generation immigrant youth can experience ethnic discrimination and additional challenges related to their acculturation. These experiences can be associated with a wide range of negative and positive mental health outcomes. In the UK context, researchers have examined distinct ethnic identities and acculturation processes, however, they have largely neglected the sizeable Turkish community. This is an important omission because Turkish minorities are one of the vulnerable ethnic groups who have possible cultural difficulties, social disadvantages and mental health problems in the UK. The present study addresses this lacuna in the literature by examining second-generation Turkish young people’s ethnic identity formation and mental health in England.
The theoretical backbone of this research draws upon Umaña-Taylor et al.’s (2004, 2014) ethnic identity development model and Berry’s (1997, 2001, 2005) model of acculturation to examine ethnic identity formation and acculturation. Adopting a mixed-methods design, this thesis investigates the complex relationships between ethnic identity formation and mental health (using indicators of life satisfaction, self-esteem, depression and psychological well-being) among second-generation Turkish young people by considering their acculturation experiences and perceived ethnic discrimination in the context of England. To achieve this aim, self-report surveys (N=220) and semi-structured interviews (N=20) were conducted amongst 16-18-year olds. Structural equation modelling was used to analyse the quantitative data and thematic analysis was utilised to analyse the qualitative data.
Survey results show that greater ethnic identification (having a meaningful and positive ethnic identity which is actively explored) is associated with positive mental health, and lower levels of assimilation and perceived ethnic discrimination partially mediating this relationship. However, these associations can be complexified when young people’s multiple social identities and acculturation experiences are considered. Qualitative results suggest that the complexity of social identities can be beneficial for ethnic identity development and acculturation processes when young people sense the multiplicity and complexity of these identities. Contextual (e.g. positive social relationships-particularly with parents, community support, diversity) and individual (e.g. blending different cultures, use of multiple languages and social identities, diversity awareness) factors are fundamental in making sense of multiple identities, developing a positive meaningful ethnic identity and different variants of integration. These findings have important implications for theory, research, policy and practice in second-generation youth growing up between cultures.
Date of Award23 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorJo Rose (Supervisor) & Shelley McKeown Jones (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • ethnic identity formation
  • acculturation
  • second-generation youth
  • Turkish immigrants
  • Mental Health
  • perceived discrimination
  • mixed-methods
  • identity development

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