Ethnic identity and mental health of young Chinese immigrants

Chen, L., Kenardy, J. A., Nurcombe, B. and Varghese, F. T. (1999). Ethnic identity and mental health of young Chinese immigrants. In: 9th Scientific Meeting of the Pacific Rim College of Psychiatrists. Challenges in a Changing World, Seoul, Korea, (211-211). 3-6 October, 1999.

Author Chen, L.
Kenardy, J. A.
Nurcombe, B.
Varghese, F. T.
Title of paper Ethnic identity and mental health of young Chinese immigrants
Conference name Challenges in a Changing World
Conference location Seoul, Korea
Conference dates 3-6 October, 1999
Proceedings title 9th Scientific Meeting of the Pacific Rim College of Psychiatrists
Place of Publication Seoul, Korea
Publisher Pacific Rim College of Psychiatrists
Publication Year 1999
Volume 1
Issue 1
Start page 211
End page 211
Total pages 1
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
AIMS AND HYPOTHESIS:
In Australia, there has been little research into the quality of young immigrants' mental health in relation to their ethnic identity and acculturation. This study aimed to determine whether there is a relationship between strength of ethnic identity and the mental health of young Chinese immigrants in Australia; and if so, whether the relationship between mental health and ethnic identity is mediated by the degree of acculturation to mainstream Australian society. Four theoretical models were proposed, according to the study hypothesis that young Chinese immigrants with high ethnic identity achievement, retained more ethnic cultural behaviour and a high level of acculturation to mainstream Australian society would be associated with greater satisfaction with life and less psychopathology. Furthermore, the study explored the roles played by other factors, such as self-esteem, ego defence styles, parental bonding and family relationships, in the theoretical models.

METHODS:
A cross-sectional study was conducted in Brisbane, Queensland. Participants were recruited through secondary schools, a religious organisation and a social organisation. A sample of 456 young immigrants (aged 15 - 21), both males and females, who identified themselves as Chinese and had been living in Australia for at least 18 months at the time the study commenced, participated voluntarily in the study. Participants completed several questionnaires assessing their ethnic identity achievement, ethnocultural identity behaviour, acculturation, self-esteem, defence style, satisfaction with life, social functioning performance, psychiatric symptomatology and family issues. There were English and Chinese language versions of the questionnaires for participants to choose from. Of 456 sets of questionnaires, 351 were returned and of these 313 contained valid data. Group interviews were conducted with 30 participants discussing matters such as their identification with their Chinese background, their personal feelings and experiences of living in Australia, and their attitudes toward Australian culture. An Acculturation Scale was specifically developed to measure the degree of young Chinese immigrants' acculturation in aspects of Social Role and Language and Allegiance. The higher scores correspond to a higher degree of acculturation. The reliability of this scale is satisfactory and its validity acceptable. The total scores for the Acculturation Scale were used in the main statistical analyses. The Ethnocultural Identity Behavior Index (EIBI) was amended before being used in the study. The revised EIBI measures young Chinese immigrants' ethnic identity behaviour in mainstream Australian society in terms of their Cultural Activities and Social Interaction. The higher scores correspond to the more retained ethnocultural identity behaviour. Once again, the reliability of this instrument is satisfactory and its validity acceptable. The total scores for the revised EIBI were used in the main statistical analyses.

RESULTS:

There is a correlation between ethnic identity and acculturation, but there seem to be two dimensions of ethnic identity. Young immigrants' acculturation is positively associated with their ethnic identity achievement but negatively associated with their ethnocultural identity behaviour. This study proposes a multidimensional model of ethnic identity, acculturation and psychological well-being. The new model indicates that young immigrants display more satisfaction with life, better social performance and less psychopathology if they have achieved a strong sense of ethnic identity and a high degree of acculturation and exhibit less retained ethnocultural identity behaviour. Although ethnic identity achievement, ethnocultural identity behaviour and acculturation are all predictive of young immigrants' psychological well-being, ethnocultural identity behaviour correlates with psychological well-being in the opposite direction from ethnic identity achievement and acculturation. There are also differences in immigrants' ethnic identity, acculturation and psychological well-being associated with gender, language spoken at home, place of origin and length of residence in Australia. Further investigations suggest that a harmonious family environment with caring, less controlling parents not only provides an environment that protects against psychopathology, but also encourages young immigrants to achieve a strong ethnic identity, to acculturate, to develop high self-esteem and to feel satisfied with life. It was found that young immigrants' defence style plays a role in their ethnic identity achievement and acculturation, and thus in turn affect their psychological well-being. However, the mechanism of these effects remains unclear. It is assumed to be related to the level of young immigrants' maturity.

CONCLUSION:

A multidimensional model of ethnic identity, acculturation and psychological well-being is proposed from this study. High ethnic identity achievement, a high level of acculturation and less ethnocultural identity behaviour are associated with more satisfaction with life, better social functioning performance and less psychiatric symptomatology. However, this correlation is very complex and affected by multiple factors. Some factors are known - self-esteem, defence style, parental bonding and family relationships; some are unknown, and may be related to immigrants' individual characteristics and to social and environment factors. There is a great need for future research into this field.
Subjects EX
111714 Mental Health
110319 Psychiatry (incl. Psychotherapy)
Q-Index Code EX

 
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Created: Fri, 06 Jun 2008, 17:03:50 EST