Open Access Capstone
The main focus of the research for my Master’s Project has been children who sojourn in a different culture for several years. When studying social phenomena, social scientists often focus on adults, representing their perceptions and attitudes towards these phenomena. Children are assumed to follow the parents as silent absorbents of the parents’ views, decisions and attitudes. I, however, have foregrounded the perspectives and voices of children themselves. In this research, I have explored the following:
How children view their cultural identity/ies;
how they practice agency in choosing one;
how identity/ies change over time;
and what influences such changes
In exploring these questions with sojourner children, the possibility for an individual to develop bicultural identity emerged. This evokes further questions, such as: Does a sense of biculturality mean that children who become familiar with the norms, rules, and social cues of two or more cultures may successfully operate in those cultures without losing their sense of self, or core, initial cultural identity? Or is the situation quite different, and children become rootless pilgrims marginalized in both cultures?
I explored these questions through a qualitative research study during which I conducted twelve in-depth interviews with twelve children between ages of 7 and 18 who came to the U.S. from four different countries (Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran and one Western African country) more than three years ago and will most likely return back to their home countries in the near future.
My findings suggest that children are able to alter their behaviors to fit the demands of both cultures quite successfully. However, they may undergo a somewhat stressful inward and outward process of adjustment to a new cultural environment. During this process, they may change their perceptions and understanding of cultural structures and its demands. However, the children were able to demonstrate the power and agency to make their own choices and hold fast to deeply-held beliefs and values. The choices they made could also be influenced by children’s family members, media, education, age at immigration, and whether or not the family practiced their homeland culture (traditions, beliefs, language) in the U.S. on a daily basis.