TOWARD A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE CULTURAL IDENTITY NEGOTIATION: THE EXPERIENCES OF MINORITY YOUTH IN MULTICULTURAL SOCIETIES
How do immigrant and minority youth navigate between and within their heritage culture and the majority culture of the wider society? Acculturation theory and research point to a widespread preference for integration (adopting and maintaining bicultural affiliations) and a strong link between integration and psychological wellbeing. Despite compelling empirical evidence about the psychological and social benefits of integration, there is limited research about how immigrant and minority youth go about achieving it. This thesis examines the mechanisms underpinning cultural identity integration, how immigrant and minority youth select desirable aspects of both cultures and blend them together in a novel way (hybridising) or shift between and across cultural identities depending on situational factors (alternating). The research is based on the core model developed by Ward and associates, which demonstrates that a motivation to integrate activates both hybrid and alternating identity styles but that these styles lead to different cultural identity outcomes (consolidation versus conflict) and have divergent effects on wellbeing (Ward, Ng Tseung-Wong, Szabo, Qumseya & Bhowon, 2018). The thesis has three main objectives: 1) to test the core mediational model of cultural identity negotiation with other minority groups and in other cultural contexts; 2) to extend the model by exploring how socio-political factors and family dynamics affect cultural identity styles and their outcomes; and 3) to explore gaps and omissions in the model to guide future research. To these ends, mixed methods are used across three studies with Arab youth in New Zealand and Arab-Palestinian youth in the state of Israel. The first study tested the mediational model of cultural identity negotiation quantitatively with Arab minority youth in New Zealand and expanded Ward et al.’s (2018) model by testing contextual variables as antecedents of the hybrid and alternating cultural identity styles and their outcomes. Subsequently, the second study uses the same methodology to investigate the experiences of young Palestinian citizens of Israel. The core mediational model was replicated in both contexts. Findings from both studies revealed that family context exerted similar influences on cultural identity styles while socio-political factors affected cultural identity styles and wellbeing in different ways. In addition, the alternating identity style appeared to be more responsive to contextual factors (family dynamics and socio-political context) than the hybrid identity style. The third study aimed to gain a broader and deeper understanding of the findings from the previous two studies, using qualitative methods to draw on the cross-cultural insights derived from a comparison of the New Zealand and Israel contexts. The qualitative study brought the individual agency into the spotlight as participants discussed selecting different strategies across work, home and university settings. When young people described their lived experiences, the alternating identity style emerged as a beneficial strategy enabling them to bridge cultural contexts without negative outcomes. Youth often had access to more than one cultural identity style and proactively interchanged them resiliently and flexibly to navigate a wide range of social environments. The combination of studies in this thesis provided additional insights into acculturation literature, integration and cultural identity styles. The findings of the research programme have contributed to gaining novel perspectives in understanding youth experiences during acculturation. More specifically, findings of this thesis led to greater understanding of what contextual factors influence the bicultural interplay of ethnic and civic participation and identity among multicultural youth. The mixed method design also has significant contributions that enabled a contextually situated understanding of the experiences of Arab youth within their cultural and socio-ecological environments and their experiences as minorities in two very different country contexts.