Arab Youth in Canada: Acculturation, Enculturation, Social Support, and Life Satisfaction

By Paterson, Ashley D.; Hakim-Larson, Julie | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, October 2012 | Go to article overview

Arab Youth in Canada: Acculturation, Enculturation, Social Support, and Life Satisfaction


Paterson, Ashley D., Hakim-Larson, Julie, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


Results from 98 Arab youth in Canada showed that having a positive Arab culture orientation was related to greater family life satisfaction with family social support as a mediator. A positive European Canadian orientation was related to greater school life satisfaction, but this relation was not mediated by friend social support. Implications for the processes of enculturation and acculturation are discussed.

Keywords: Arab youth, acculturation, social support

Los resultados obtenidos de 98 jovenes Arabes en Canada mostraron que tener una orientacion cultural Arabe positiva estaba relacionado con una mayor satisfaccion sobre la vida en familia, con el apoyo social familiar como mediador. Tener una orientacion Eurocanadiense positiva estaba relacionado con una mayor satisfaction en la vida escolar, pero esta relacion no estaba mediada por el apoyo social de los amigos. Se discuten las implicaciones para los procesos de inculturacion y aculturacion.

Palabras clave: jovenes Arabes, aculturacion, apoyo social

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Despite a common language, Arabic-speaking people are religiously and ethnically diverse and inhabit a wide geographic area spanning the Middle East and Africa (Nydell, 2006). Arab Canadian immigrants originated from one of the 22 countries of the League of Arab States (B. Abu-Laban, 1980, 1999). These countries are Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen (BBC News, 2011). Over 300,000 individuals of Arab and West Asian descent now reside in Canada, and over one third are under the age of 24 (Statistics Canada, 2001a, 2001b). First-generation immigrants have been defined as those who are born outside of Canada, and second generation refers to those born in Canada with at least one parent born outside of Canada (Surro & Passel, 2003).

Across generations, family relationships, obligations, and loyalty are fundamental Arab values (Nydell, 2006). In contrast, in North America, individual rights and independence are valued (e.g., S. M. Abu-Laban & Abu-Laban, 1999). However, Canadian social policy emphasizes multiculturalism and overall well-being rather than the normative family and educational values of the mainstream culture (Sabatier & Berry, 2008). Therefore, children of Arab immigrants to Canada have been described as being "in between" two worlds: one private that includes their families, and one public that includes their friends and community (S. M. Abu-Laban & Abu-Laban, 1999). The acculturation of young Arab Canadians may favor their ethnic heritage (Arab), their national heritage (Canadian), both, or neither as suggested in Berry's (2005) model. Although parents often exert pressure on their children to maintain their ethnic pride (e.g., Ajrouch, 2000), youth also seek acceptance from peers, who may tend to support the exploration of the dominant cultural values (Oppedal, Roysamb, & Sam, 2004). The potential for conflicting social pressure from family and peers may relate to youths' acculturation to the dominant culture and to their adjustment in the various domains of life (Faragallah, Walter, Schumm, & Webb, 1997). The purpose of the current study was to investigate the acculturation and enculturation of Arab Canadian youth in relation to their life satisfaction in family and school domains, both of which are primary sources of social support among youth.

Acculturation for immigrant youth results when their heritage and host culture interact (Berry, Kim, Power, Young, & Bujaki, 1989). Although this process is bidirectional, the term acculturation refers to the adoption of the dominant culture because of the unequal bidirectional influences (Yoon, Langrehr, & Ong, 2011). Enculturation involves socialization into the values, beliefs, and behaviors of one's culture of origin and ethnic group (Yoon et al. …

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