Exploring the acculturation experiences of African adolescent refugees and asylum seekers in Ireland using interpretative phenomenological analysis
Kennedy, Lisa Ann
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When individuals and groups come into continuous, first-hand contact a process of psychological and cultural change known as acculturation is thought to take place. It is particularly important to understand experiences of acculturation during adolescence, as this is a time when a sense of self in relation to society becomes salient. Dominant modes of inquiry in acculturation research have been critiqued due to the lack of attention given to the subjective meaning of the acculturation experience. In this idiographic, qualitative thesis I addresses these criticisms by presenting an account of acculturation grounded in a synthesis of qualitative literature on adolescent acculturation and four empirical studies of the acculturation experiences of adolescent refugees and asylum-seekers in Ireland. In Study 1 I explore the experiences of 10 acculturating adolescent refugees living in Ireland using a cross-sectional IPA (Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis) design. The findings of the study point to the utility of Identity Process Theory (IPT) in terms of understanding adolescent acculturation experiences. In Study 2 I again utilise a cross-sectional IPA design. In this study I explore the acculturation experiences of six acculturating adolescent asylum-seekers in Ireland. Given the limited access to resources inherent in being an asylum-seeker in Ireland, this study explores whether the asylum-seeking context can be conducive to Positive Youth Development (PYD). In Study 3 I adopt a longitudinal IPA design to trace the changing perceptions of a single adolescent refugee over time as he copes with the asylum-seeking process in Ireland. Study 4 adopts a longitudinal IPA design where a second interview with a subset of the participants from Study 1 is incorporated, conducted a year after the initial interview. I trace consistencies and changes in the themes derived for each participant by analysing the interviews through the lens of the Person-Process-Context-Time (PPCT) model of development. The findings demonstrate the value of inductive research in exploring acculturation, particularly using the IPA methodology. They challenge accepted assumptions regarding how individuals acculturate and highlight the contextualised nature of the acculturation experience. The findings also address previous assumptions about issues such as free choice of acculturation strategy on the part of acculturating individuals. Overall, the findings illustrate the importance of examining acculturation in context, particularly the policy context which can afford or deny acculturating adolescents particular opportunities.