Submission note: A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of clinical psychology [to the] School of Psychology and Public Health, College of Science, Health and Engineering, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
Children and adolescents form half the 16 million refugees who have fled their home countries due to war, persecution, famine, and other natural and human-made disasters. They are among the world’s most vulnerable people and are at risk of poor mental health and disrupted developmental trajectories. In Australia, the number of refugees increased by almost 50% from 13,500 to 20,000 in the last 5 years. With increasing numbers of refugees moving to Australia every year, it is important to better understand how this group might successfully cope with this major life transition. To this end, using Berry’s framework of bidimensional acculturation, predictors of acculturation and sociocultural and psychological adaptation among refugee youth in Australia (N = 106) were examined in this cross-sectional study. Specifically, the current thesis sought to address the following three questions: 1) what acculturation strategies do refugee youth most commonly use?; 2) to what extent do peer, language and family factors influence refugee youths’ acculturation and adaptation outcomes?; and 3) should refugee youth be treated separately to their non-refugee immigrant peers in acculturative research? Data derived from questionnaires were analysed using a series of correlation, ANOVA and regression analyses. Results revealed 1) refugee youth primarily show patterns of integration and marginalisation acculturation strategies, 2) a significant interplay of peer, language and family factors, particularly that of peer support, perceived discrimination, language proficiency and parental positive reinforcement, on refugee youths’ acculturation and adaptation outcomes, 3) refugee youth report overall poorer adaptation compared to non-refugee immigrant youth, however these differences seem also due in part to ethnic group membership, and 4) refugee youths’ pathways to adaptation are more different than similar compared to non-refugee immigrant youth. Taken together, the results of this thesis may help to increase support workers’ awareness of how aspects of refugee youths’ cultural identity and peer and family environments could influence their adjustment to Australia. It is hoped that this in turn will help inform the structure and focus of prevention and intervention programs specific to refugee youth.
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