The Process of Identity development in young Afghan 1.5 generation refugees in England: A Narrative Inquiry

Prof Doc Thesis

Panahi, A. 2022. The Process of Identity development in young Afghan 1.5 generation refugees in England: A Narrative Inquiry . Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsPanahi, A.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

The context of the past 40 years show that Afghanistan produces one of the largest numbers of refugees due to the ongoing conflicts. However, this group's experiences are often looked through a politicised, quantitative lens in research. Existing psychological literature on Afghan refugees highlights the psychological distress of various generations (Alemi et al., 2014; Mghir et al., 1995; Panter-Brick et al., 2009). However, there is an identified gap in psychological research on Afghan youth. Those who have arrived in England at specific developmental stages of their life have been identified as a unique generation. Through a narrative approach, this research focuses on enabling policy makers and academics to better understand the nuances associated with Afghan youth who had arrived between ages six and twelve, the 1.5’ers. The aim is to explore stories of how the youth recall their experiences of developing identity as refugees in England.

Five participants, three females and two males, who identified as Afghan, were recruited. All participants had arrived in England between the ages of six and ten and participated aged between 20-32. This research uses narrative methods and semi-structured interviews. A four staged Dialogical Narrative Analysis was designed for this study to analyse the stories as they emerged.

The emerging narratives presented the different processes that individuals experienced. Many participants spoke of loss and finding self, as many navigated complex social dilemmas. This process involves aspects of resilience against misconceptions that came from their social interactions and the growing activism towards homeland. In essence, the findings demonstrate the complexity and nuanced experiences and stories. The stories present the various actors and influences from society which impacted the participants as young children but equally as they formed their adult identities. The stories present the impact of microaggressions, experiences of inequality and feelings of having their identities dictated by others who are perceived to hold more power. The narratives highlight the need to be listened to and given opportunities to build their own identities. It emphasises the need for continued dialogues and interactions to reduce misunderstandings and assumptions about the experiences of identity. This study informs our existing understanding of how Afghan youth begin to narrate their identities, an area highly linked to general psychological wellbeing. The analysis of stories comes with the awareness of the cultural perspective, a unique contribution to the research world. We begin to explore the roles main characters play in refugee youth identity development such as the role of family and media. Social context has a highly important role in this and experiences, such as those from school establishments, continue to impact identity through to adulthood. This study can inform educational psychology, social and political policies and encourage better access to appropriate resources in the context of youth refugees. Subsequently, this can facilitate their individual identity development from a culturally appropriate perspective.

KeywordsAfghan; Afghanistan; Identity; Acculturation; Assimilation; Afghan Identity; Identity processes; Narrative; 1.5 Generation; Migrant; Refugee; Afghan refugee; Afghan youth; Identity development; Dialogical Self theory
PublisherUniversity of East London
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Publication dates
Online27 Sep 2023
Publication process dates
Completed09 Dec 2022
Deposited27 Sep 2023
Copyright holder© 2022, The Author
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