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Linking self and society: Identity and the immigrant experience in two macro-contexts

Journal article
Authors Ylva Svensson
M. Syed
Published in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Volume 64
ISSN 0193-3973
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Ethnic identity, Immigrant experience, Macro-context, Narrative, adult, article, expectation, human, identity, immigrant, juvenile, social norm, Sweden, Swedish citizen
Subject categories Psychology


The purpose of this study was to compare identity processes associated with the immigrant experience in two macro-contexts, the U.S and Sweden. Using a qualitative narrative approach, we explored how immigrant and non-immigrant youth negotiate their identities in the intersection between individual selves and society, by studying how they experience deviations from societal expectations and whether such deviations were associated with alternative group belonging. The sample consisted of 59 narratives written by 1st and 2nd generation immigrants and non-immigrants (age 16–25). Results indicated that the U.S. participants were more likely to define themselves using racial and multi-ethnic categories, whereas Swedish participants relied on national labels. Additionally, U.S. participants showed clear evidence of deviations from societal norms, but also found belonging in social groups from those deviations. Swedish participants showed some deviations, but little evidence of group belonging. The findings highlight the contextual nature of identity development within an immigrant context. © 2019 Elsevier Inc.

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