Factors affecting the formation and reformation of ethnic identity: A study of the psychological well-being of Chinese immigrant adolescents

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As the number of Chinese immigrants grows exponentially, our public school system has subsequently faced massive influxes of Chinese immigrant students. While adjusting to living in a vastly different sociocultural milieu, these immigrant students are also simultaneously adapting to a different educational system and learning a new language. All of these new academic, sociocultural, and linguistic demands can incur stress and other negative consequences that intrude on Chinese immigrant students’ psychological well-being. This phenomenon, in turn, portends particular challenges to the teachers and educators working with them. It is, thus, imperative that we understand Chinese immigrant students’ post-immigration experience to better address their psychological needs. This study investigated particularly three first-generation Chinese immigrant adolescents’ meaning making of the factors contributing to their shaping and reshaping of their ethnic identity vis-à-vis their cultural adaptation as a means to understand their psychological well-being. To this end, I conducted individual interviews with these adolescents. The results revealed that the three Chinese immigrant adolescents’ meaning making of their formation and reformation of their ethnic identity was influenced by four major factors: (1) ethnic background; (2) cultural valuation of filial piety; (3) friendship network; and (4) English proficiency. These contributing factors are interpreted from both the cultural and contextual perspectives. Educational implications and directions for future research are also discussed.

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Psychological Well-Being: Cultural Influences, Measurement Strategies and Health Implications

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