C 2005) Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 34, No. 5, October 2005, pp. 413–426 ( DOI: 10.1007/s10964-005-7259-7
The Impact of Immigration on the Internal Processes and Developmental Tasks of Emerging Adulthood Sophie Walsh,1 Shmuel Shulman,2 Benny Feldman,3 and Offer Maurer4 Received March 12, 2004; revised October 27, 2004; accepted November 11, 2004
This study examines the experience of emerging adult immigrants, a group simultaneously attempting to navigate the developmental period of exploration and experimentation of emerging adulthood, together with the need for re-organization of the self, following immigration. In this study, in-depth interviews were conducted, with 41 emerging adult immigrants from the former Soviet Union in Israel and 42 non-immigrant Israeli emerging adults (all in the age group 21–25), on the subjects of sense of self, family relations, and age-appropriate tasks of emerging adulthood. Results showed that while immigrant emerging adults had a more disorganized sense of self, they also showed higher levels of both autonomy and relatedness in the relationship with their parents. Immigrant emerging adults had fewer social networks, yet more intimate relationships. Emerging adult immigrants’ story was one of “relatedness” where level of self-organization was related to closeness, caring, and identification with parents, and closeness in both social and intimate relationships. In contrast, the nonimmigrant emerging adults told about a process of “autonomy seeking” where a consolidated sense of self was related to more independent decision-making, emotional independence, and assertiveness in the relationship with parents. The findings of this study point to the complex and unique process that emerging adult immigrants undergo while coping with developmental tasks in their new environment. KEY WORDS: emerging adults; immigration; sense of self; family.
“emerging adulthood” (Arnett, 2000), a developmentally distinct period covering the ages from around 19 to 25. Research suggests that one of the most notable aspects of emerging adulthood is its heterogeneous nature, and the huge range of individual trajectories (Cohen et al., 2003), and yet, common themes and characteristics of this age group are being distinguished. Emerging adulthood has been seen as a time distinct from both adolescence and young adulthood (Arnett, 2000), in which the young person prepares himself or herself for adulthood through exploration and experimentation. This article is aimed at beginning a new dialogue, examining in what ways emerging adulthood and the developmental tasks inherent within it are influenced and affected by significant events that occur in the young person’s life. In particular, this study is examining the ways in which immigration, an event itself demanding a reworking of the self-narrative (Akhtar, 1999), impacts on the process of emerging adulthood.
INTRODUCTION Recent years have seen the start of an academic dialogue concerning the nature and conceptualization of 1 Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist, Department of Psychology, Bar Ilan University, Israel. Received Ph.D. from Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. Current research interests in emerging adulthood and immigration. To whom correspondence should be addressed at Department of Psychology, Bar Ilan University, 52900 Ramat Gan, Israel; e-mail: [email protected]
. 2 Professor, Department of Psychology, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel, and Visiting Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine. Main foci of research are developmental processes and adaptation in adolescence and emerging adulthood. 3 Ph.D., Chief Psychologist, Kaplan Mental Health Center, Rehovot, Israel. Received Ph.D. from Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. Current research interests concern emerging adulthood and adaptation. 4 Ph.D. Department of Psychology, Bar Ilan University, Israel. Received Ph.D. from Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. Current research interests in emerging adulthood and schizophrenia.
413 C 2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 0047-2891/05/1000-0413/0
414 EMERGING ADULTHOOD Arnett (2000) proposes a new conception of development for the period from the late teens through the twenties. Changes over the past 50 years, in particular globalization (Arnett, 2002), have altered development for young people in industrialized societies. Since marriage and parenthood are delayed until the late-twenties, it is no longer normative for the late teens and early twenties to be a time of entering into and settling down in long-term adult roles. Arnett builds on Levinson’s (1978) concept of the “novice phase” of development and Keniston’s (1971) theory of “youth” as a period of continued role experimentation between adolescence and young adulthood to conceptualize what he sees as years of frequent change and exploration. Emerging adulthood is a period of experimentation and exploration in love, work, and the young person’s worldview (Arnett et al., 2001) during which the young person is both preparing for adulthood and also experimenting for experimentation sake. In preparation for adulthood, the young person is involved in a process of consolidation of a sense of self or identity in various areas of his or her life: love relationships are experimented with and become more serious, work experiences become more focused on preparation for adult work roles, and worldviews are consolidated (Arnett, 2000). However, experimentation can also be seen in the risk-taking and reckless behavior that emerging adults involve in (Bradley and Wildman, 2002; Shifran et al., 2003). Risk-taking (often socially approved thrill-seeking such as bungee jumping or motorcycle riding) and reckless behavior (substance use, promiscuity, reckless driving) can be seen as part of an identity exploration and reflect the high levels of personal freedom and low levels of social responsibility that emerging adults feel of having (Bradley and Wildman, 2002). The nature of emerging adulthood as a space between youth and adulthood is described by European Group for Integrated Social Research (EGRIS) (2001) by the term “swinging lives”: young people alternating between the classic biographical phases. This intermingling of youth and adult structures is placed in a socio-cultural perspective (Bynner, 2001) which encompasses lifestyles and housing, relationship patterns, gender roles, and concepts for an occupational career: young people who find a job they may lose at any time; who revise their occupational aspirations; who drop out of school and return some time later; and who engage in relationships that they do not know how long they will last.
Walsh, Shulman, Feldman, and Maurer Making the transition also entails internal processes; saying that a person is married or pursuing a specific occupation is only a superficial understanding of the person. Also important are the meanings and the functions each choice has for the individual’s pattern of life. Levinson (1978) contended that the understanding of the “choices” a person makes at a given time cannot be isolated from a comprehensive understanding of the person. More specifically, Levinson described various components of the self that are relevant for understanding the life pattern a person decides to pursue, for example, what aspects of the self are lived out and what aspects are neglected; how a person deals with the complexity of wishes, conflicts, and anxieties, and what ways are used to resolve or contain this complexity. In addition, during transitional periods, previously organized life patterns are questioned and re-appraised, and new possibilities for change are explored. During this process, a person’s awareness of the social and historical context of his or her life, awareness of private aspirations, qualities of character, torments, and fulfillments are important in facilitating the individual’s capacity to deal with the developmental task. Thus, the pattern of life one chooses to pursue reflects, to a great extent, one’s conception and reorganization of self. In this vein, Levinson’s understandings can be understood within the tenets of conceptions of the self. The widely accepted conceptualizations of the self have described it as an entity that is central (Kernberg, 1982), structured (Kohut, 1977, 1984), and reflects the representations an individual has about himself or herself (Fonagy et al., 1991). De Waele (1996) conceptualizes the self-system as the experiential being that organizes and regulates itself. The organization of oneself is built upon the experiences (internal in relation to oneself, and external in relation to objects and the world outside the individual) that one undergoes, and the capacity to represent the experiences. A person may experience a “multiplicity of self-states,” namely being different in different situations. Nevertheless, the functioning individual has the capacity to negotiate continuity and change simultaneously (Bromberg, 1996) and as a consequence, to obtain a coherent perception of himself or herself and have more confidence in future actions. Thus, examining the sense of self or the more prevalent self-experiences might be helpful in understanding how young people organize their thoughts, feelings, and actions, and understand their experiences during the transition to adulthood or while switching between adult and adolescent-like roles. In particular, we selected the aspects of the self that are theoretically relevant to the ability to
Emerging Adult Immigrants organize, coordinate, examine, and understand the various self-experiences: (1) Unity—the degree to which the person’s experiences are interrelated, organized, and have meaning; and (2) Continuity—the degree to which one experiences oneself as the same person during these transitions (Kernberg, 1982; Kohut, 1977; Noy, 1982). The inner sense of unity and continuity reflects perceiving the self as the organizer and regulator of internal and external experiences (De Waele, 1996). Related to these aspects is the capacity to represent and reflect on thoughts and feelings in self and in others (Fonagy et al., 1991), and to show “empathic understanding” of one’s experiences (Basch, 1992).
EMERGING ADULTS, IMMIGRATION, AND SENSE OF SELF Similar to emerging adulthood, immigration has been described as a time of “psychic flux” (Akhtar, 1995, 1999) demanding a need for re-organization of the self, and attempts to cope and adapt to the huge changes being experienced by the immigrant in the transition to a new culture. Garza-Guerrero (1974) elaborates 2 particular aspects of “culture shock” (Oberg, 1960), namely the process of mourning brought about by the huge loss of a variety of love objects in the abandoned culture and the vicissitudes of identity in the face of the threat of a new culture. It is a stressful, anxiety-provoking situation, which puts the newcomer’s personality functioning to the test and challenges the stability of his or her psychic organization. When the crisis is resolved, further emotional growth may emerge. However, if it is not resolved successfully, stagnation or psychopathology may occur. Basing his work on Erikson (1956) and Kernberg (1966, 1971), Garza-Guerrero states that 3 of the prime elements of ego-identity are challenged and put in danger through the immigration process: an awareness of continuity over time of the self; a sense of “consistency” between the external object world in relation to the concept of the self; and a sense of “confirmation” of one’s identity in interaction with the environment. The task of the ego or self is thus to reintegrate the internal world on the basis of interaction with the new environment and to re-shape the self-concept on the basis of new experiences with others. Grinberg and Grinberg (1989) also discuss the threat on the sense of continuity of the self, adopting Winnicott’s (1975) concept of “transitional space,” suggesting that the immigrant needs a potential space that s/he can use in order to experience migration as a game. If s/he fails to
415 create this potential space, then the continuity between the self and the surroundings is broken. They see immigration as both a “trauma” (a violent shock) and a “crisis” (a temporary disturbance of the regulatory mechanisms of the individual), which demand a re-organization of the self. According to Akhtar (1999), immigration carries with it a splitting of the sense of self as immigrants are caught between their “old” self and their attempts to cope with and adapt to the huge changes being experienced by the immigrants in the transition to a new culture. Recent research has also examined the impact of immigration on sense of self. Ben-David (1996), looking at the impact of immigration on “sense of coherence” (a pervasive and enduring feeling of confidence that the internal and external environments are predictable and explicable, and that one has the relevant inner resources available to meet environmental demands), among Russian immigrants to Israel, found that immigrants scored lower on the “sense of coherence scale,” implying a lesser feeling of confidence and control. Eleftheriadou (1997) in a study of a young Arab female living in England illustrates the loss in sense of self and inner confusion experienced after moving from a familiar cultural framework and the careful exploration needed before a person can feel able to relate to the new context and himself/herself again. McIntyre and Augusto (1999) in their analysis of the “Martyr adaptation syndrome,” among Portuguesespeaking immigrant women, discuss a 2-phase process whereby an initial “super-coping” phase is replaced by a “collapse” phase, in which a pervasive loss of sense of self leads to an inability to negotiate an identity in the new culture. This article is examining how the constraints put on the sense of self following immigration affect emerging adults, an age group simultaneously required to cope with a complex developmental phase. How does the inner process demanded by immigration affect the young person’s ability to consolidate their worldviews, formulate their professional identity, form social and intimate relationships, and form relationships of autonomy and relatedness with their parents? We have so far discussed the possible impacts of immigration on internal processes among emergent adult immigrants. Yet, it is also important to examine the extent to which daily adaptation of immigrant emergent adults, including their achievement of age-related goals, might be affected by the process of immigration. Previous research has focused on younger subjects. Conflicting results of research have pointed to adolescent immigrants as showing greater levels of maladjustment than their peers (Handal et al., 1999), less satisfaction with their lives (Ullman
416 and Tatar, 2001), and addressing turbulent dual processes of separation–individuation (Gottsfield and Mirsky, 1991; Mirsky and Kaushinsky, 1989). Yet, on the other hand, recent research has shown no differences between immigrants and native adolescents in levels of loneliness (Neto, 2002) and in psychological adaptation (Sam and Virta, 2003). In some cases, higher levels of self-esteem (Stiles et al., 1998) and adjustment (Fuligni, 1998) have even been found among immigrant adolescents as opposed to their non-immigrant peers. Emerging adulthood poses new challenges for the young person with regard to future aspirations, and the establishment of intimate relationships and their difficulties have been documented (Bynner, 2001; EGRIS, 2001). The stresses that young immigrants encounter may affect not only their internal process, but also their being capable of pursuing practical age-related tasks. Emerging adult immigrants, in addition to the developmentally appropriate tasks, need to confront elements of “culture shock” (Oberg, 1960): learning a new language, culture and norms, dealing with the constant new stimuli, confronting the reaction of the host population, and coping with the myriad of emotions awoken by this process. All of these demand the investment of physical and emotional energy and time. The blow to their sense of “belonging” and “competence” (Walsh and Horenczyk, 2001) that all immigrants encounter may be particularly sensitive at a time when a young person is trying to assert himself/herself as being competent and masterful. With the advent of adulthood, one is expected to become responsible for the attainment of goals through successful manipulation of the environment (Hauser and Greene, 1987) and to relinquish childish dependency upon parents (Blos, 1967). Williamson and Bray (1988) emphasize the importance of developing a “personal authority” which reflects the young person’s growing responsibility for his or her life. This personal authority is consolidated within a close and supportive relationship with parents, when parents give their blessings and support their offspring’s becoming a “separate” adult. Frank et al. (1988) found that emotional autonomy, namely the capacity to internally regulate self-esteem, is related to the shift toward a mature relationship with parents. Differentiation from parents without severing parental ties, and continued parental availability in case of need, are sources for young adults’ improved ability to decide on personal and relationship goals and commitments. Without the attainment of some degree of independence from parents, combined with parental support, young adults will have difficulties accomplishing the developmental tasks of this transitional stage (O’Connor et al., 1996).
Walsh, Shulman, Feldman, and Maurer However, among immigrants, the nature of the relationship between children and parents may take a different pattern. Together with their own individual process of emerging adulthood, young immigrants may often have responsibilities and obligations to their families, such as helping to financially support the family, advising parents, taking care of siblings and helping siblings with homework, and helping parents with official business or documents (e.g., translating letters). In their study on the Chinese and Latin American immigrant population in America, Fuligni et al. (1999) also pointed to the greater expectations of assistance, support, and respect that families have from their children. It is possible that observing the difficulties that parents undergo following the move to a new country, children assume a more responsible and adult-like role as found in families experiencing economic crises (Elder and Cogner, 2000). Thus, it would be reasonable to assume that youngsters in immigrant families are expected to take-up more responsibilities, for their own life and for the lives of other family members. Yet, at the same time, they are also expected to stay close and be involved in family matters due to the fact that they learn the language faster and may own more tools for adapting to the new society, and it is reasonable to ask whether the continued closeness with parents may take its toll (Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco, 1995). As such, the following hypotheses were suggested: (1) Immigrant emerging adults, as compared with non-immigrant emerging adults, would be seen to have a less consolidated and coherent sense of self. The double pressure of immigration together with the developmental process of emerging adulthood was hypothesized to have a negative impact on their sense of self. (2) In this study, we sought to explore the extent to which immigrant emergent adults achieve developmental tasks such as career definition, forming of social networks and intimate relationships. On the one hand, it is possible that due to being engulfed in adapting to a new culture, these young people are less free to pursue developmental tasks. On the other hand, due to the increased expectations of their families to assume responsibility, emergent immigrant adults may attain developmental tasks earlier. (3) Immigrant emerging adults were hypothesized to be both more autonomous from their parents, having to take on more individual and family responsibilities, and also more related and connected to their parents, due to the obligations and needs of the family.
Emerging Adult Immigrants (4) The study also sought to explore the associations between the quality of family relationships and individual adjustment among immigrant and non-immigrant emergent adults. The role of the family in the adjustment of emergent adults has been documented (Allen and Hauser, 1996; Moore, 1987; Shulman and Ben-Artzi, 2003). However, as outlined above, children in immigrant families assume responsibility earlier, and may act like adults. Thus, it is not clear where the role of the family in individual adjustment will differ across immigration status. This study took place in Israel, a country with large number of immigrants. Between the years 1990 and 2003, over 1,100,000 immigrants came to Israel (making-up 13% of the total national population), of which approximately 9.5% were between the ages of 20 and 24 (figures from the Israeli Central Bureau for Statistics and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption). This makes the research both very relevant and essential to understanding the experience emerging adult immigrants go through.
METHOD Participants The sample consisted of 41 emerging adult immigrants from the former Soviet Union, 20 females (49%) and 21 males (51%), together with 42 non-immigrant Israeli emerging adults, 21 females (50%) and 21 males (50%). Criteria for the immigrant group were young people between the ages of 21 and 25 (mean age = 22.56; SD = 1.12), who had immigrated within the previous 5 years (mean 3.09 years; SD = 1.58), either alone within an organized program (49%) or with family (51%). The emerging adult immigrants were currently studying in a pre-university preparatory program in 2 different cities in Israel and were contacted through notices, in Russian, around the campuses and in absorption centers, requesting participants for a research study on the subject of immigration. The notices explained that the participants would be compensated for their participation. Criteria for the non-immigrant Israeli emerging adults were young people between the ages of 21 and 25 (mean age = 23.21; SD = .65) with an educational level comparable to their immigrant counterparts. Announcements were placed, in Hebrew, in 3 university campuses around Israel, requesting participants for a developmental study. These notices also explained that participants would be compensated for their participation.
417 Procedure To approach the research questions comprehensively, and to detect the inner self processes through which young people dealt with the emergent adulthood issues, this study took principally a qualitative approach. Employing a semi-structured interview, participants were asked to describe themselves and talk about their personal, social, and professional dreams and current life status; to describe post-adolescence changes they had experienced and the changes they expected in the future. To capture and address the aspects of the self as outlined above, subjects were encouraged to talk about their various experiences; if they felt that what had happened to them and the way they behaved matched their self-perception, or if it was somewhat alien to them; how they felt about the changes they had experienced since adolescence; and how they understood the experiences and changes that they had undergone in recent years. Subjects were encouraged to describe their professional aspirations and their preparations for a profession. They were also asked to talk about their romantic relationships: if they were then, or had been involved in a serious relationship; how close they were to their romantic partner; and to what extent they were able to express their individual needs in the relationship. They were likewise asked to describe their relationships with their parents. Questions were developed in line with the age-related components of emergent adult–parent relationship, as outlined by Frank et al. (1988). Subjects were asked to talk and describe decision-making and their ability to assert themselves before parents; closeness and conflicts with their parents; and how they perceived, evaluated, and understood their parents. These questions were asked separately regarding their relationships with mothers and with fathers. (The complete interview manual can be obtained from the second author.) The semistructured interviews were conducted by 2 experienced, qualified clinical psychologists (a non-immigrant born Israeli man and an immigrant woman), audio-taped and later transcribed. The interviews lasted between 1.5 and 2.5 h. Testing the research questions required operational definitions of self-components, quality of relationship with parents, and attainment of developmental tasks. Two clinical psychologists (other than the interviewers) and 2 developmental psychologists read carefully the transcripts. Based on reading the transcripts and on the theoretical background with regard to self, family relations, and emerging adulthood, the following scales (on a level from 1—low to 5—high) were developed.
418 Indices of self Six scales analyzing elements of a sense of self were developed: unity, continuity, reflectivity, false self, doingoriented, and idealization. The unity scale explores the extent to which the young person is able to integrate different self-elements into a meaningful whole (1—different self-experiences are expressed but the relationship between them is nonexistent; 5—different self experiences are expressed and are integrated into a logical, clear, and unified whole. The young person can explain how and why they behave or experience themselves differently in different situations). The continuity scale explores the extent to which, despite external changes in life, emerging adults experience themselves as the same person today as they were in the past and will be in the future, and are able to make sense of this (1—an incoherent narrative in which there is no clear relationship between different experiences of the self at different times; 5—different experiences of the self which occur at different times but which form a coherent, cohesive, integrated continuity. The young person is able to give meaning to the developmental process they have experienced). The reflectivity scale referred to the ability to provide a comprehensive and integrative view of self-experiences (1—indicated simple or banal descriptions of self, others, or actions; difficulty in making assessments about feelings or beliefs; low reference to mental or emotional states in quantity or quality; 5—indicated the ability to envisage a variety of perspectives, and the evolution of an integrative view toward the end of the interview). It is known that not all experiences are well integrated into the self because defense mechanisms determine to some degree what will be integrated into the self and what will be excluded (Havens, 1985; Winnicott, 1965). Based on theoretical work and on the material that emerged from the transcripts, we decided to add 3 additional scales. The idealization scale explores the extent to which the young person has a realistic or idealized self-concept (1—a realistic self-image; 5—an inflated and exaggerated self-image lacking awareness of limitations). The false self scale explores the extent to which the young person adopts an inauthentic or stereotypical self-image (1—lack of false self indicated connection with one’s own feelings, awareness of one’s own preferences, and the capacity to show them in public; 5—indicated the adoption of a false or stereotyped identity combined with low emotional connection with that identity).
Walsh, Shulman, Feldman, and Maurer The doing-oriented scale explores the tendency of young people to overdo their activities, as if to prove to themselves that they had indeed changed. In extreme cases, subjects were excessively active, seeking a stronger sense of their new experience (1—indicated high awareness and a connection between actions and feelings; 5— indicated deep involvement in activities, continuous pursuit of accomplishments and initiatives, but low awareness of the inner meaning of those activities). Indices of parental relationships Six scales analyzing elements of the emerging adult’s relationship with his/her parents were developed: independent decision-making, assertiveness, emotional independence, closeness/communication with the parents, caring for parents, and admiration/identification. The independent decision-making scale explores the extent to which the emerging adult makes important decisions independently (1—tendency to rely on parents for making decisions together with feelings of guilt or anxiety when wanting to make decisions independently; 5—ability to make important decisions independently, often together while maintaining contact with parents— “autonomously related”). The assertiveness scale explores emergent adults’ responses to parental disapproval or anger (1—tendency to limit behavior so as to avoid conflict, anger, or criticism from parents; 5—preparedness to express needs and values, even when it involves risking parental approval). The emotional independence scale explores the degree to which emerging adults are able to distinguish between themselves and their parents (in terms of feelings, beliefs, values, and behaviors) and to choose their own individual path in life (1—the emerging adult and his/her parent are overly involved in each others lives in a complex and unhealthy way, “enmeshment”; 5—ability to make clear differentiation between one’s own life and that of one’s parents, “separation”). The closeness/communication scale explores the degree of closeness and sharing of emotions and intimate subjects with parents (1—very limited or nonexistent closeness and sharing; 5—extensive ability to communicate with parents on personal emotions and concerns). The caring for parent scale explores the degree of care and concern that the emerging adult expresses toward his/her parents (1—indifference toward parents’ welfare; 5—real and mature concern toward parents’ welfare). The admiration/identification scale explores the degree of admiration of the emerging adult toward his/her
Emerging Adult Immigrants parents and the ability to see them as a source of identification (1—devaluation of parent and rejection of him/her as role model; 5—pride toward and realistic evaluation of parent and wish to be like him/her). Indices of emerging adult tasks Six scales analyzing developmentally ageappropriate tasks of emerging adulthood were developed: career definition, extent of social relations, degree of closeness in social relations, existence of intimate relationships, degree of closeness in intimate relationship, and degree of independence in intimate relationships. The career definition scale explores the extent to which the emerging adult has clear consolidated and realistic career plans (1—lack of any direction or career interest; 5—clear, consolidated, and realistic career directions). The social relations scale explores the existence of meaningful social relationships (1—lack of meaningful friendships, and existence of “acquaintances” only; 5— substantial, meaningful, social network including specific friendships). The social closeness scale explores the degree of closeness within friendships (1—distant relationships only; 5—close, mutual, supportive friendships). The intimate closeness scale explores the degree of closeness within romantic relationships (1—distant relationship; 5—close, warm relationship based on trust and sharing). The intimate independence scale explores the degree of independence and self-expression within romantic relationships (1—symbiotic relationship containing dependency, and lack of self-expression; 5—mutual independence characterized by equality and mutuality, which allows growth and self-expression). The intimate timing scale which explores the existence in the present and past of meaningful romantic relationships (1—current meaningful relationship; 4—never experienced intimate relationship). Two independent raters—graduate students in clinical psychology (other than those who constructed the scales)—were trained to rate the scales. Training of the raters took about 7 months. They rated 20 interviews separately. Cohen Kappas for the 2 raters across the different scales ranged from .71 to .97. Disagreements were conferenced till a consensus was reached. Different raters were used for ratings of self and ratings of relationship with parents to prevent bias in ratings. To validate emerging adults’ self-descriptions, information was also collected from parents. Mothers and fathers (of non-immigrant emerging adults) were
419 administered a modified version of the Psychological Separation Inventory (Hoffman, 1984) measuring parents’ perception of children’s functioning and quality of relationship with their emerging adult child. Correlations of emerging adults’ self-description as independent and assertive with paternal and maternal ratings of their child as dependent were r = −.34 and −.27, respectively (p < .05). Correlations between child and parent perceptions of the quality of their relationships were r = .35 (p < .05) regarding father–child relationships and r = .31 (p < .05) regarding mother–child relationships. Psychological distress and symptomatic behavior was assessed using the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI, Derogatis and Spencer, 1982), a self-administered questionnaire composed of 53 items on a 5-point scale. This is a shortened version of the 90-item Symptom Check List (Derogatis, 1977) and contains 9 sub-scales relating to somatization, depression, anxiety, hostility, phobia, paranoia, psychoticism, interpersonal sensitivity, and obsessiveness. Three psychologists fluent in English and Russian, translated the questionnaire from English into Russian. Translation was conducted by a translation– retranslation procedure. In Canetti et al.’s (1994) study on Israeli adolescent norms of the BSI (translated into Hebrew), high levels of internal consistency and good concurrent validity were found (internal GSI reliability = .95). RESULTS Initial independent sample t-tests were carried out in order to examine differences between the immigrants who came alone and those who came with families. No significant differences were found on any of the indices explored and therefore, the with/without family variable was left out of the following analyses. Immigration and Emerging Adult Self-Indices A MANCOVA of 2 (immigrants vs. non-immigrants) × 2 (gender) while controlling for age was conducted. Indices of self (unity, continuity, reflectivity, idealization, doing-oriented, and false self) were the dependent variables. Results revealed both a significant main effect for immigration status, F(6, 73) = 4.17, p < .01 and for gender, F(6, 73) = 2.88, p < .05. No significant co-variant effect was found. A follow-up univariate analysis revealed that the significant difference between immigrants and non-immigrants was accounted for by differences in indices of unity [F(1, 82) = 9.89, p < .01], reflectivity [F(1, 82) = 4.64, p < .05], idealization [F(1, 82) = 4.90,
420 p < .05], and false self [F(1, 82) = 2.80, p < .10]. Emerging adult immigrants in comparison to non-immigrant Israelis described lower levels of unity, M = 2.95 (SD = 1.30) versus M = 3.83 (SD = .88), lower levels of reflectivity, M = 2.77 (SD = 1.15) versus M = 3.33 (SD = 1.05), and lower levels of idealization, M = 1.37 (SD = .58) versus M = 1.74 (SD = .77). In addition, emerging adult immigrants described higher levels of false self, M = 2.71 (SD = 1.19) than non-immigrant Israelis, M = 2.33 (SD = 1.05). A follow-up univariate analysis of gender revealed that the significant difference between males and females was accounted for by differences in unity [F(1, 82) = 4.98, p < .05], continuity [F(1, 82) = 9.31, p < .01], and doing-oriented [F(1, 82) = 6.24, p < .05]. Females as compared to males showed higher levels of unity, M = 3.65 (SD = 1.06) versus M = 3.15 (SD = 1.26), higher levels of continuity, M = 3.96 (SD = 1.01) versus M = 3.25 (SD = 1.21), and lower levels of doingoriented, M = 2.17 (SD = 1.00) versus M = 2.81 (SD = 1.19). Immigration and Attainment of Emerging Adulthood Tasks A MANCOVA of 2 (immigrants vs. nonimmigrants) × 2 (gender) while controlling for age was conducted. Indices of emerging adult tasks (career definition, social relations, social closeness, intimate closeness, intimate independence, intimate timing) were the dependent variables. Results revealed 1 significant main effect for immigration status, F(1, 82) = 2.50, p < .05. No significant co-variant effect was found. A follow-up univariate analysis revealed that the significant difference between immigrants and non-immigrants was accounted for by differences in variables of social relations [F(1, 82) = 9.79, p < .01], social closeness [F(1, 82) = 5.20, p < .05], intimate independence [F(1, 82) = 12.52, p < .05], and intimate timing [F(1, 82) = 7.79, p < .01]. As suggested, no significant differences between emerging adult immigrants and non-immigrants were found for career definition. Emerging adult immigrants showed lower levels of social relations, M = 3.26 (SD = 1.40) than non-immigrant Israelis, M = 3.98 (SD = .87) and lower levels of social closeness, M = 3.45 (SD = 1.29) than nonimmigrant Israelis, M = 3.98 (SD = .92). Emerging adult immigrants, however, described higher levels of intimate independence, M = 3.88 (SD = 1.34) than non-immigrant Israelis, M = 2.86 (SD = 1.92). Finally, immigrant emergent adults were more likely than non-immigrant Israelis to be currently involved in an intimate relationship, M = 1.66 (SD = 1.10) versus M = 2.11 (SD = 1.19).
Walsh, Shulman, Feldman, and Maurer Thus, where immigrant emergent adults were less involved in relationships with peers, they were more likely, as compared to non-immigrant emergent adults, to be involved in a romantic relationship. Of those emerging adult immigrants who had romantic partners, the vast majority (over 90%) were also immigrants from the FSU, often longer term immigrants who had more knowledge of Israeli language and culture and could thus serve as a “bridge” in the acculturation process. This was particularly notable in the case of the emerging adult immigrant women.
Immigration and Psychological Symptoms A MANCOVA of 2 (immigrants vs. nonimmigrants) × 2 (gender) while controlling for age was conducted. Psychological symptom levels (somatic, obsessive, interpersonal difficulties, anxiety, depression, hostility, phobia, paranoia, psychosis) were the dependent variables. Results revealed both a significant main effect for immigration status, F(1, 82) = 3.47, p < .01 and for gender, F(1, 82) = 3.53, p < .01. No significant co-variant effect was found. A follow-up univariate analysis revealed that the significant difference between immigrants and non-immigrants was accounted for by differences in variables of hostility [F(1, 82) = 4.50, p < .05], phobia [F(1, 82) = 4.73, p < .05], and paranoia [F(1, 82) = 3.80, p < .10]. Immigrant emerging adults as compared to nonimmigrant Israeli emergent adults showed higher levels of hostility, M = .96 (SD = .74) versus M = .60 (SD = .53), phobia, M = .63 (SD = .51) versus M = .43 (SD = .34), and paranoia, M = 1.02 (SD = .79) versus M = .64 (SD = .51). Follow-up univariate analysis of gender revealed that the significant difference between males and females was accounted for by differences in somatic symptoms [F (1,82) = 9.56, p < .01], anxiety [F(1, 82) = 3.40, p < .10], and paranoia [F(1, 82) = 6.06, p < .05]. Females showed higher levels of somatic symptoms, M = .54 (SD = .54) than males, M = .22 (SD = .29), and higher levels of anxiety, M = 1.04 (SD = .68) than males, M = .75 (SD = .68). Additionally, females reported lower levels of paranoia, M = .67 (SD = .56) than males, M = .97 (SD = .76). The Relationship Between Sense of Self and Developmental Tasks of Emerging Adulthood in the Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Groups In order to examine at further depth the differing relationships between sense and self, and developmental
Emerging Adult Immigrants
Table I. Relationship Between Sense of Self and Emerging Adulthood Tasks Among Immigrant/Non-Immigrant Groups Career definition Unity Continuity Reflectivity Idealization Doing-oriented False self ∗p
.566∗∗ /.234 .498∗∗ /.093 .417∗∗ /.261 −.072 /.145 −.245 / −.168 −.218 / −.196
Social relations .206 /.377∗ .196 /.366∗ .246 /.222 −.026 /.064 −.186 / −.036 −.036 / −.205
.274 /.145 .290 /.282 .381∗ /.084 −.026 /.094 −.240 /.061 −.066 / −.142
.400∗∗ /.380∗ .460∗∗ /.139 .268 /.238 −.290 / −.140 −.417∗∗ / −.192 −.307 / −.218
Intimate independence .204 /.260 .174 /.053 −.001 /.242 −.201 / −.225 −.206 / −.133 −.220 / −.193
Intimate timing −.272 / −.421∗∗ −.209 / −.135 −.170 / −.285 .199 /.008 .130 /.298 .207 /.104
< .05; ∗∗ p < .01.
tasks of emerging adulthood among the 2 groups, correlations between indices of self and emerging adulthood were computed. As can be seen in Table I, among the immigrant emerging adults, career definition was related to a more consolidated sense of self, with positive correlations to unity, continuity, and reflectivity. Social closeness was also positively related to reflectivity, while intimate closeness was positively related to unity and continuity, and negatively correlated to doing-oriented. Among the nonimmigrant emerging adults however, the quantity of social relations was positively correlated to unity and continuity while intimate closeness was positively related to unity. The length of time/existence of intimate relations was negatively related to unity. In summary, for the immigrant emerging adults, a more consolidated sense of self was related to increased career definition and closeness in social and intimate relationships, whereas in the case of nonimmigrants, a more consolidated sense of self was related only to the quantity or existence of relationships.
Immigration and Emerging Adult–Parent Relationships A MANCOVA of 2 (immigrants vs. nonimmigrants) × 2 (gender) while controlling for age was conducted. Indices of emerging adult–parent relationships (independent decision-making, assertiveness, emotional independence, closeness/communication with parents, caring for parents, admiration/identification) were the dependent variables. Results revealed both a significant main effect for immigration status, F(6, 73) = 9.91, p < .001 and for gender, F(6, 73) = 3.04, p < .01. No significant co-variant effect was found. A follow-up univariate analysis revealed that the significant difference between immigrants and non-immigrants was accounted for by differences in variables of independent decision-making [F(1, 82) = 15.11, p < .001], assertiveness [F(1, 82) = 9.88, p < .01], caring for parent [F(1, 82) = 17.28, p < .001], and admiration/identification [F(1, 82) = 15.46,
p < .001]. Emerging adult immigrants reported higher levels of independent decision-making, M = 4.63 (SD = .83) versus M = 3.83 (SD = .96) and higher levels of assertiveness, M = 4.34 (SD = 1.04) versus M = 3.54 (SD = 1.12) than their non-immigrant Israeli counterparts. In addition, emerging adult immigrants as compared to non-immigrant Israeli emergent adults described higher levels of caring for parents, M = 4.24 (SD = .99) versus M = 3.36 (SD = 1.08) and higher levels of admiration/identification, M = 4.15 (SD = 1.28) versus M = 3.21 (SD = .89). Follow-up univariate analysis of gender revealed that the significant difference between males and females was accounted for by differences in emotional independence [F(1, 82) = 8.44, p < .01] and closeness/communication with parents [F(1, 82) = 6.11, p < .05]. Females showed lower levels of emotional independence, M = 3.59 (SD = 1.18) than males, M = 4.30 (SD = .81), but higher levels of closeness/communication with their parents, M = 3.49 (SD = 1.03) versus M = 2.84 (SD = 1.22). Interestingly, overall no correlations were found between immigration status and gender across the different individual and relationship indices. The Relationship Between Sense of Self and Parental Relationships in the Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Groups In order to examine at further depth the differing relationships between sense and self, and parental relationships among the 2 groups, correlations between indices of self and emerging adulthood were computed. As can be seen in Table II, for the immigrant emerging adults, closeness/communication with parents was positively related to continuity and negatively related to doingoriented; caring for parents was positively related to continuity and negatively related to doing-oriented and false self; and admiration/identification was positively correlated to continuity and reflectivity. In the case of the nonimmigrant emerging adults, independent decision-making
Walsh, Shulman, Feldman, and Maurer Table II. Relationship Between Sense of Self and Family Relationship Indices Among Immigrant/Non-Immigrant Groups Independent decision-making
Unity Continuity Reflectivity Idealization Doing-oriented False self ∗p
.122 /.168 .041 /.060 −.012 /.382∗ −.182 / −.143 .184 / −.264 −.010 / −.318∗
Assertivity .013 /.105 .018 /.019 .036 /.279 −.046 / −.102 .167 / −.321∗ .164 / −.258
Emotional independence .086 /.249 −.051 /043 −.119 /.357∗ −.041 / −.178 .143 / −.197 .089 / −.345∗
Closeness/ communication .299 /.280 .402∗∗ /.158 .202 /.273 −.048 /.078 −.477∗∗ / −.191 −.096 / −.101
Caring for parent .261 /.193 .364∗ /.058 .246 /.247 −.245 /.072 −.449∗∗ / −.053 −.319∗ /.011
Admiration/ identification .201 /.047 .379∗ / −.083 .345∗ /.039 −.074 /.048 −.306 / −.016 −.169 / −.078
< .05; ∗∗ p < .01.
was positively related to reflectivity and negatively related to false self; assertiveness was negatively related to doingoriented; and emotional independence was positively related to reflectivity and negatively related to false self. In summary, the results showed 2 different patterns. For the immigrant emerging adults, a more consolidated sense of self was related to closeness, caring, and identification with parents, whereas for non-immigrant emerging adults, a consolidated sense of self was related to independence and assertiveness. The Relationship Between Parental Relationship and Developmental Tasks of Emerging Adulthood in the Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Groups Correlations between indices of emerging adult– parent relationships and tasks of emerging adulthood were computed separately for each group in order to examine the different association between parental relationships and developmental achievements. Interestingly, while there were no significant correlations between parental relationships and emerging adult tasks among the non-immigrant group, among the immigrant group there were significant relationships between caring for parents and career definition (.393, p < .05), social relationships (.438, p < .001) and social closeness (.418, p < .001) and between closeness/communication with parents and intimate closeness (.384, p < .05). Thus it seems that the parental–emerging adult relationship is related to the achievement of tasks of emerging adulthood among immigrant emerging adults, yet not among non-immigrants, in particular, the degree of closeness with the parent. The findings suggest that it is closeness with and caring for the parent that allow the emerging adult to progress developmentally. DISCUSSION The results of the study revealed that the emerging adult immigrants did indeed show a less consolidated or
more damaged sense of self than the non-immigrants as shown by lower levels of unity and reflectivity and higher levels of a false self. Immigrants are possibly engulfed by ongoing stresses (Ben-Sira, 1997). Being highly preoccupied with daily demands impacts on the sense of self, affecting a sense of coherence (Ben-David, 1996) and does not leave much room for reflecting on the process they undergo. In addition, the higher levels of false self suggest the greater degree of defenses that the immigrant emerging adults employ in order to survive and cope with the pressures and stresses of immigration (Akhtar, 1999). One interesting finding was that the difference between the 2 groups in narrated continuity did not reach statistical significance. This could either suggest that this element of the self-narrative is less damaged than the others through the immigration process or that it is the first to be re-worked. Noy (1995), describes a healthy sense of self as one which maintains both cohesion and coherence: the self as a story with a narrative. He suggests that the narrative is formed as a consequence of the human need to ascribe meaning. As we name our emotions, we give them meaning and build our self-stories. Each meaningful change in our life invokes a necessity to re-edit the narrative from the beginning and not just to add another chapter to the drama. It is through the re-telling of a person’s self-narrative that the sense of self is constructed (Bruner, 1990). Immigrants who experience multiple contradictions in their lives, have to re-edit their self narratives and create new meanings (Mallona, 1999). Yet, while undergoing the process, the feeling of instability and “psychic flux” (Akhtar, 1999) caused by immigration leads to a disorganization of the self-narrative and of the ability to reflect on the self. This disorganization of the self was also seen by the increased levels of hostility, phobia, and paranoia that the immigrants showed. This phenomenon recalls the all-good/all-bad idealization and devaluation intrinsic to the splitting in the sense of self documented by Akhtar (1995, 1999). In this process, an immigrant may turn the host country into all-bad,
Emerging Adult Immigrants unwanted, and devalued. This process may have very real psychological impact and be expressed on the level of symptomatology. The disintegration of the self, as the findings of this study showed, probably makes young immigrants more vulnerable. In contrast to non-immigrants, among immigrants significant associations were found between indices representing self-cohesion and reflectivity and an individual’s having clear career goals and balanced romantic relations. It is probable that young immigrants need more inner strength such as the organization of the self in order to achieve age-related tasks, since each age-related task is also colored by the brush of immigration. SuarezOrozco and Suarez-Orozco (2001) outline how immigrant young people must construct identities that will enable them to thrive in profoundly different settings such as home, school, the world of peers, and the world of work; and need the strengths to do so. Each sphere may operate in a different language and with different cultural codes which the young person needs to navigate. Immigrant emerging adults were also seen to differ to their non-immigrant counterparts in terms of their relationships with their parents. Interestingly, the results showed that the immigrant emerging adults had both higher levels of autonomy (independent decision-making, assertiveness) together with higher levels of relatedness (caring for parents, admiration/identification). Previous research has described the greater degree of obligation and assistance that immigrant adolescents give to their families (Fuligni et al., 1999). It is possible that observing the difficulties that parents undergo following the move to a new country, children assume a more responsible and adult-like role as found in families experiencing economic crises (Elder and Cogner, 2000). The current research suggests that this phenomenon is true also for emerging adult immigrants, who take on a caring adult-like role. Literature on emerging adulthood (Arnett, 2000) describes that one of the tasks of emerging adulthood is to reach a position of autonomous relatedness (O’Connor et al., 1996) and of a “personal authority” within family relationships (Shulman et al., 2005). These results suggest that immigrant emerging adults may be inclined to accomplish this task sooner or faster than non-immigrants while assuming a role of an adult in their family. While adolescence has traditionally been seen to be a time of building social relationships and an emphasis on the peer group (Youniss and Smollar, 1985), emerging adulthood has been seen to be a time for the development of intimate relationships, the consolidation of career directions, and the development of worldviews (Arnett, 2000). The current study showed that on the one hand, no differences were seen between the immigrant and
423 non-immigrant emerging adults in the degree of career direction, but on the other hand that immigrant emerging adults had less social relationships and less closeness in their social relations. It may be that here too immigrant emerging adults quickly leave the adolescent standpoint and move through the transition to adulthood. Immigration involves the loss of social networks (Grinberg and Grinberg, 1989) and it may be that following a move to a new country, the emerging adult is preoccupied with daily demands and less emotionally available to invest and recreate the adolescent peer structure. Instead, they become more involved in a romantic relationship, possibly also representing the accelerated pace of becoming an adult. The more mature relationship with parents and the higher incidence of being involved in a romantic relationship seem to be suggesting that immigrant emerging adults move through the transition to adulthood at a faster pace than non-immigrant emerging adults. This would seem to corroborate Arnett’s (1998, 2000) view that emerging adulthood is dependent on culture and a socio-historical context, and could suggest that immigration leads to a distinctive developmental process that may interfere with the exploration that characterizes emerging adulthood. Moreover, in-depth analysis of the quality of the emerging adult experience across the 2 groups seems to tell different stories of emerging adulthood. This was further demonstrated by the different associations between indices of self-organization and relationships with parents in the immigrant and non-immigrant groups, suggesting that there are 2 pathways in the transition to adulthood. In the case of the non-immigrant, the traditional story of the move toward autonomy as a healthy developmental goal or task is reflected in the findings of this study. For non-immigrants, a consolidated sense of self, as shown by higher reflectivity and unity and lower doing-oriented and false self, was related to more independent decisionmaking, emotional independence and assertiveness in the relationship with parents, and more social relations. Thus, the move away from parents as the central figure is paralleled with the coherent and cohesive sense of self. The story, as told by the immigrant emerging adults is very different and could be termed the story of closeness. In this case, a consolidated sense of self (or a less disorganized sense of self) among emerging adult immigrants was positively related to closeness, caring, identification with parents, and closeness in both social and intimate relationships. Similarly, caring, closeness, and communication in the emerging adult–parent relationship were seen to be significantly related to the achievement of developmentally appropriate tasks of career definition, the development of social relationships and social intimacy,
424 and of intimate relationships. For the healthy, adaptive immigrant emerging adults, it seems that tasks of emerging adulthood are negotiated and achieved within a context of closeness with less emphasis on independence from parents. The dialectic of closeness versus individuality is not only central in the understanding of family systems (Minuchin, 1974). Similarly, Hofstede (1980) described the centrality of collectivism versus individualism as varying among different cultures. In collectivistic cultures, individualistic goals are valued to the extent that they are coordinated within the family or the larger reference group. It is not clear whether the “collectivistic” framework of the immigrant emerging adults in the current study represents their previous culture or is a response to the immigration process, namely that families tend to act more cohesively under conditions of stress (Lewis, 1986). Families can provide affective, cognitive, and instrumental resources to cope with the stress following immigration (Ben-Sira, 1997). Gold (1989) pointed to the supportive role played by families in the readjustment of Russian Jewish and Vietnamese immigrants to the United States, which included the sharing of information, money, and emotional support. There were also seen to be gender differences across the 2 groups of emerging adults but no significant correlations between gender and immigration status. In terms of self-indices, emerging adult women were seen to have greater levels of unity and continuity and lower levels of doing-oriented defenses. Parental relationships for women were characterized by greater closeness/communication and less emotional independence, and women overall had greater levels of somatic symptoms and anxiety but less paranoia. Josselson (1992) talks of the fundamental differences between men and women in their forms of relatedness. Basing her work on the theories of Chodorow (1978) and the way in which men and women form their sense of self in fundamentally different ways, women around the axis of “connectedness” and men around the axis of “separation,” Josselson deliberates the extent to which the differences between men and women exist essentially at an internal level (in a sense of self and in terms of relationships) or to what existing differences are connected to the way men and women articulate themselves. Women, according to Josselson (1992), are more at home in the world of mutuality and sharing, able to reveal personal experiences, disclose their selves, and share inner states that are intimate. Men, in place of emotional interchange substitute instrumental activity (p. 231). Structural differences between male and female narratives have also been explored (Lieblich et al., 1998). Similarly, differences have been found in the way in which men and
Walsh, Shulman, Feldman, and Maurer women’s sense of self is impacted upon or damaged following immigration, such that women may more acutely feel a loss in a sense of belonging, whereas men are more attuned to a loss in a feeling of competence (Walsh and Horenczyk, 2001). A deeper examination of the gender differences that arose in this study are important, including the question as to what extent the differences seen are a result of real differences or a consequence of the differences in the way men and women discuss themselves, but is beyond the confines of this article. Although the results of this study contribute to our understanding of the immigrant emerging adult and the impact of immigration on this developmental period, it is important to note several caveats that underscore the need for additional research. The first limitation pertains to the fact that these results are based on only 1 source of information—the emerging adult. Future research, including the perspective of family, friends, or partners could enrich our understanding of the process these young people are going through. On the positive side, it is important to remember that the results of this study are based on in-depth interviews that provided young immigrants with an avenue for narrating their story of immigration. An additional limitation pertains to the sample. The current study was conducted on a sample of FSU immigrant emerging adults in Israel. As outlined by Kwak (2003), the cultural distance between the culture of origin and that of the new society is an important factor in the process of acculturation. On the one hand, Israel and the FSU, though different in cultures, share a number of common values. In this sense, it is reasonable to ask whether the findings will be similar under conditions of a greater distance between the previous and the new cultures. On the other hand, the differences in culture and family values do invite follow-up research to continue exploration of this topic. Studies in the area of immigration always demand repetition in varied cultures. The implications of this study and its potential contributions are widespread. At the conceptual level, the results emphasize the heterogeneous trajectories of emerging adulthood (Cohen et al., 2003), and the idea that there may be more than 1 “story” of emerging adulthood. Where the new country may seem to allow a new exploration of career and study opportunities and worldviews, independence from families, and experimentation with new roles, immigrant emerging adults also experience a more disorganized sense of self and feelings of hostility and paranoia, and are in need of appropriate support and guidance to enable them to successfully navigate their path in life. Understanding the vulnerability and the experience of young immigrants may enable the host society to
Emerging Adult Immigrants help them achieve better and realize their full potential (Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco, 2001).
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