Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Pathways to Positive Development for Muslim Immigration Youth in Western Contexts

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posted on 2021-11-12, 01:54 authored by Stuart, Jaimee Ellen

Muslim youth growing up in Western contexts face a complex set of issues as a result of meeting the various, and often incongruent, expectations placed upon them by their family, religion, ethnic community and host national society. This group of young people is often thought to face high risks of maladaptation, as they potentially experience the negative effects of acculturation more so than host nationals or other immigrant youth. Recent research, however, has suggested that many Muslim migrant young people are successfully negotiating their experiences of cultural transition in Western societies. Therefore, the major aim of this thesis was to obtain systematic data on young Muslim migrant’s “pathways to positive development”, or how these young people achieve successful adaptation in the face of adversity. To examine the complexities of Muslim migrant youth acculturation fully, it is necessary to have a comprehensive understanding of their lived experiences within and across contexts. In order to achieve this, four studies were conducted utilising mixed methodologies and drawing on a range of psychological and sociological theories, predominantly focusing on acculturation, development and religiosity. Study 1 qualitatively investigated the indicators and determinants of participation and success for Muslim youth in the New Zealand environment. The results of this study enabled a framework to be developed that illustrates the most salient ecological resources youth access (family, religion and the intercultural environment), the risks they face (discrimination and cultural differences) and outcomes of the acculturation process. In study 2, this framework was refined by drawing upon theories of resilience, and subsequently was tested quantitatively with a sample of Muslim youth in New Zealand. Results from this study indicate that while Muslim youth in New Zealand may be at risk of maladaptative outcomes because of their exposure to discrimination and cultural transition, ecological resources may counteract some of the negative effects of these stressors. Study 3 sought to test whether the results found in study 2 were generalisable to Muslim youth in other contexts by carrying out a comparative analysis of youth outcomes in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. These societies were chosen to be compared because they share a similar historic culture but have taken very different routes to social cohesion and the inclusion of minorities. The major aim of this study was to investigate whether the country of settlement has an impact on the adaptation of Muslim migrant youth. The results demonstrate that the cultural environment of migration plays an important contributing factor to both the experience of stress and the achievement of positive adaptation above and beyond the effects of resources. Finally, study 4 utilised techniques of multilevel modelling to examine the acculturation experiences of Muslim youth cross-culturally. Drawing on the International Comparative Study of Ethnocultural Youth (ICSEY) data, Muslim migrant youth from 9 Western receiving nations were examined. Results indicate that the ideological context (cultural values and host national attitudes towards immigrants) has important effects on individual levels of adaptation and the experience of perceived discrimination. The findings of this thesis contribute novel perspectives to acculturation and development research as well as cross-cultural psychology more generally. Using multiple methods in the study of psychological phenomena enables a move beyond traditional descriptions of acculturation processes as situated predominantly within one cultural setting and advances our understanding of how Muslim youth fare in a global context.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Ward, Colleen; Jose, Paul