Annotated Bibliography of New Zealand Literature on Migrant and Refugee Youth
THEMES EMERGING FROM THE RESEARCH
The commonality between the findings of the body of work reported here, covering the last three decades of research activity, and the consultation that gave rise to the YDS early in the 21st century, is instructive. It suggests that some of the key issues for young migrants and refugees are enduring, for example, issues around language (learning and maintenance), cultural difference and cultural conflict between the spheres of home and school, the importance of family, the significance of cultural difference in learning styles and of the provision of culturally appropriate services.
Not surprisingly, given its relatively recent provenance, the YDS list also highlights issues to which research has given increasing prominence in recent times. Chief among these is the recognition by researchers that appreciating the diversity of migrant/refugee communities is fundamental to an understanding of successful settlement and social inclusion. Collapsing that diversity into, for example, 'Pacific' and 'Asian', as tended to happen in many research projects in the past, is seen by a growing number of researchers as problematic. There is also increasing recognition of significant diversity within ethnic communities themselves and this is particularly pertinent to research relating to young people: in particular, important differences exist between those born in a migrant or refugee community's country of origin and those members of that community who were born in New Zealand. This is an area that has been touched on in the past by a number of researchers in relation to issues such as language maintenance and intergenerational tensions in families, but it is now beginning to be addressed in more depth in relation to identity and the integration of young people in New Zealand society.
Interest is also growing in methodologies that enable people to participate in research on their own cultural terms, that is, through methods that acknowledge the cultural context within which the research is taking place. Some of these developments are discussed later in this commentary.
In the following discussion, the broad themes that have emerged from the research gathered for the bibliography are identified. These are grouped in relation to the goals of the New Zealand Settlement Strategy, but as noted above, the research does not map neatly onto these goals. The discussion begins with Goal Four because the family is the basic social network for young migrants and refugees and is fundamental to their wellbeing. This is followed by a discussion about the themes emerging from education and employment research (Goals One and Two). Notably, there is a great deal about the former and very little on the latter despite the close relationship between education and labour market outcomes. Discussion on themes emerging from Goal Three (access to services) follows, and then Goals Five (identity) and Six (civic participation) are merged because the safe expression of ethnic identity is one of the important elements of successful participation in civic, community and social activities.
Forming supportive social networks and sustainable community identities
The basic social network to which most young people belong is their family. In the case of young people in migrant/refugee communities, 'the family' takes multiple forms. Often these are extended families that may be multi-generational and include overseas born and New Zealand born members (e.g. Liu 2000 [F11], 2003 [F10]). Most of these families are resident in New Zealand, but a small and growing number are transnational, divided across continents (e.g. Lunt 2006 [F12]). This latter is the family situation for young people in 'astronaut' families in which one parent (usually the father) has returned to the country of origin in order to work (e.g. Ho et al. 1997 [F8]) - a situation made increasingly possible by developments in global business and communication technologies.
Refugee families may also be divided between countries. Families coming to New Zealand may comprise only a mother and children, other members of the family having been lost through war or other traumatic circumstances. Such transformation of a traditional family form may compound the settlement difficulties faced by young refugees. For example, it may disrupt expectations, roles and forms of parental education that are traditionally strongly gendered (see Guerin et al. 2003, [E53] who comment on this in relation to young Somali refugees).
In so far as the family forms the foundational social network for young migrants and refugees, the complex and potentially disruptive dynamics involved in moving a family across the world into a different cultural environment may have a powerful impact on these young people. Policies and services that affect the family will therefore affect its young members, and likewise, policies and services aimed at young people must take account of their family relationships.
Transitions between family and school
The position of young people within the network of family and community is complex. Often they carry the aspirations and expectations of their parents and grandparents - that they will do well in school and tertiary education, and that they will get a 'good job' i.e. one that is more secure and financially rewarding than the work that their parents have been able to gain in New Zealand. For these expectations to be met, these young people must engage successfully with the education system, but in many cases, this system is foreign to their parents. Thus, parents may not fully appreciate the workings of the system and its demands on their children. This may make it difficult for parents to help children with their studies either directly (e.g. in homework or by engaging with the school over problems that their children are having) or indirectly (e.g. by understanding what their children need in order to study effectively in terms of time, levels of responsibility in the home and so forth). An example of the former can be found in the work by Humpage (1998a [E63]) with Somali refugee adolescents, which found that Somali parents, though highly educated themselves, were excluded from involvement in their children's education because of language barriers and unfamiliarity with the New Zealand schooling system.
Research on problems of a more indirect nature are found by Fogarty (1992 [E50]), Dickie (2000 [E46]), Fa'afoi and Fletcher (2001 [E48]), and Anae et al. (2002 [E35]), all of whom investigate the time pressures on young Pacific people who are expected (by their teachers) to find considerable time for study, while also being expected (by their families) to commit significant amounts of time to involvement in family activity. There is also research illustrating ways in which different communities are working to address these issues themselves through, for example, the establishment of homework centres for their young people (e.g. Fusitu'a and Coxon 1998 [E51], Manu'atu 2000 [E76], Abdi 2003 [E34], and the Victoria University of Wellington Research Team 2005 [E90]).
Transitions between family and peers
In their ethnic community and their school, young people are participating in two often quite disparate social networks - each of which makes different (and sometimes conflicting) calls upon them. Support and understanding at home are often built on cultural mores and expectations of behaviour that are radically different from those that are required to build supportive networks among peers. This can create grounds for conflict in the home where parents, who fear they are 'losing' their children to a different way of life, may attempt to impose strongly traditional controls upon them. Meanwhile, 'Kiwi' peers may expect particular types of behaviour in relation to parties, dating and being 'cool', that conflict with religious and gendered forms of behaviour, and family obligations and traditions, to which these young people are accustomed and which they may wish to maintain (e.g. Foliaki 1992 [F5], NZ Federation of Ethnic Councils 1993 [F14], Joudi 2002 [F9], Vong 2002a [F22]). Being located between cultures in this way can be a significant stressor for migrant and refugee young people (as a number of articles about the importance of appropriate social services suggests, e.g. Ahmad et al. 2000 [H3], Wali 2001 [F32], Ngai and Chu 2001 [H24], Chu 2002 [E41], Evolve 2005 [E47]) but it can also be a profoundly creative place, as these young people begin to craft new ethnic identities that reflect their membership of ethnic communities that are firmly located in New Zealand (see Identity section below).
While there is a great deal of research about young people in their families, much less work has been done about their connections within other social networks, particularly in relation to their peers. Comment is often made in the research on families about conflict generated by young people wanting to pursue activities with their peers that their parents regard as inappropriate to their own culture (although Humpage 2000b [E65], offers an interesting counter-example) but it is usually family relationships rather than peer relationships that are the focus of this research.
One of the key studies that has addressed peer relationships directly, by Sobrun-Maharaj (2002 [H28]), looked at social acceptance of visible ethnic minority adolescents among five ethnic groups in Auckland secondary schools. The study found significant social distance between the groups, misconceptions on the part of members of some groups regarding acceptance and understanding of difference, and significant intimidation experienced by young people in visible ethnic minority groups. The implications of these characteristics of peer relationships for the mental and physical health of these young people are clearly important. This is an area about which much more could be learned.
There is a small but emergent body of research on peer relationships and networks in the context of crime and youth gangs. Most of this research comes from within government ministries: some of it is broad based, such as the reports by Singh and White (2000 [F28]), Ministry of Social Development (2002 [F26]) and Maxwell et al. (2004 [F25]) which identify effective practice in relation to youth offending programmes for indigenous and ethnic minority young people. Other work is focused on specific issues, particularly youth gangs (Eggleston 2000 [F24], Ministry of Social Development 2006 [F27]). In general, however, youth crime in relation to migrant and refugee young people (as both perpetrators and victims of crime) is an issue that is yet to be taken up by the wider research community.
Being positioned as they are between the two social networks of family and peers, young people often find themselves in the role of mediator between the family and wider society. This is particularly so in relation to the English language, which young people often pick up more quickly than their parents (e.g. New Zealand Immigration Service 2004 [I25]).
Migrant and refugee families are generally bilingual to a greater or lesser extent, and in some cases they are multilingual, but levels of proficiency in both the language of the country of origin and in English vary across the generations. Young people are in more danger of losing the language of their community than are their parents. In the research, language maintenance emerges as very important for establishing sustainable community identities, and young people are often (although not always) aware of the dangers of language loss (e.g. 'Aipolo and Holmes 1990 [F1], Daly 1990 [F3], Shameem 1994 [F19], Davis et al. 2001 [F4], Ng et al. 2004 [F15]). Where they are bilingual, young people tend to have a dynamic engagement with their community's language, through different patterns of usage among different groups within the community and through code-switching among themselves. They are often aware that language links them closely to their community, would like to continue to be (or to become) fluently bilingual, and in at least one study have said that they would like their children to be bilingual also (Underhill-Sem and Fitzgerald 1996 [I34]).
Becoming confident using English in a New Zealand setting, able to access appropriate language support, obtaining employment appropriate to qualifications and skills
Research cited here relating to education and employment is almost entirely about young people's experiences in intermediate and secondary schools and tertiary institutions. There is very little research about transitions from education to employment for young people from ethnic minority communities and not a great deal about their experiences once in employment. In terms of education research, however, a huge amount of work has been done, stretching back more than thirty years and spanning the entire education sector. Of all areas that have been identified for the bibliography, education is easily the most well researched field.
Three interrelated themes emerge consistently from this body of research:
- English language proficiency is crucial for effective learning in New Zealand secondary schools and tertiary institutions.
- Effective learning requires an understanding by teachers and by educational institutions that learning styles differ, often significantly, across cultures. The practical implementation of strategies to address these differences is vital for effective learning to take place.
- The context in which young people come to learning can have an important effect on their ability to learn. In particular, as well as the challenges of a different language and culture, young refugees face adjustment hurdles related to the significant stresses associated with leaving their home countries, and (perhaps lengthy) disrupted schooling prior to their arrival in New Zealand.
The research cited in the bibliography explores in detail the ramifications of these themes for teachers (both ESOL specialists and mainstream subject teachers), for the design of curricula and courses, and for the resourcing, organisation and culture of schools and other educational institutions. This research is diverse in its methods, topics and scale, but findings and recommendations do tend to come back repeatedly to these three themes. The range of this research is indicated below.
There are several literature reviews that draw together a wide range of research (both local and international) and make recommendations that relate to the themes identified above (see, for example, Anae et al. 2002 [E35], Coxon 2002 [E45], Franken and McComish 2003 [E14], Hamilton et al. 2000 [E54], Tupuola 1997 [cited in E109]).
There are a number of large research projects such as the Achievement in Multicultural High Schools (AIMHI) project (Hawk and Hill 1996 [E57], Hill and Hawk 1998 [E58]), projects on ESOL provision (Franken and McComish 2003 [E14], Kennedy and Dewar 1997 [E19]), and the programme of work from the Migration Research Group at the University of Waikato that has studied migrant young people moving from secondary education into tertiary education and employment (Ho et al. 1996 [E107], Ho and Chen 1998 [cited in E107], Ho et al. 1998 [cited in E107]). A number of other large scale education research projects are cited here that have not had ethnicity as a particular focus, but have touched on it in some form: the Schools with Special Needs Project (Ramsay et al. 1983 [E86]), the Smithfield Project (Watson et al. 1997 [E102]), the Progress at School Project (Nash 2000 [E100]), the Competent Children Study (Wylie et al. 2006 [E103]).
There is also an extensive range of work on a smaller scale by thesis students, including those who have themselves come through the New Zealand education system as immigrants or the children of immigrants, and by teachers interested in enhancing the learning environment for their students from non-English speaking backgrounds. These projects range from work in which the researcher was immersed in the field for a lengthy period (see, for example, Jones 1985 [E66], 1986 [cited in E66], 1987 [E108], 1988 [cited in E66] and 1991 [cited in E66]) through to single case studies such as Simunic (2004 [E28]) in which a teacher tried a new way of teaching science to one class and measured the results. The literature is rich with case studies and action research by people involved in the education of refugee and migrant young people.
Accessing appropriate information and responsive services that are available to the wider community (for example, health, housing, education and services for families)
Research relating to this goal is generally health related and covers a wide range in terms of scale. Major studies tend to focus on health outcomes rather than on the processes of gaining information and access. Some of these studies are very large surveys and their analysis includes a breakdown by ethnicity (as one variable among many) into general categories: for example, the New Zealand Mental Health Survey (e.g. Baxter et al. 2006 [H6], Beautrais et al. 2006 [H7], Foliaki et al. 2006 [H15]), smoking behaviour studies (Ford et al. 1995 [H17], 1997 [H16], Laugesen and Scragg 1999 [H21]), and work on eating behaviours and their relevance to physical wellbeing (e.g. Utter et al. 2006 [H30]; see also Fuamatu et al. 1996 [H18] for a smaller study). The Youth2000 survey (Rasanathan et al. 2006 [H25]) deserves special mention here, being a large scale study that is particularly useful for its focus on youth wellbeing.
At the other end of the scale is a range of reflections on professional practice from social workers, school counsellors and psychotherapists (e.g. Au 2002 [H4], Ngai and Chu 2001 [H24]). These smaller studies are more likely to consider issues associated with young people's access to mental health services, whether through the school counsellor, a social worker or a psychotherapist.
Several of these studies find evidence of health issues associated with being a young migrant or refugee, for example, the Youth2000 survey (Rasanathan et al. 2006 [H25]) found evidence of depression, anxiety and bullying among these young people, while Abbott et al. (1999 [H1]) found that youth can be a predictor of vulnerability to mental ill-health in immigrant communities, and Elliott et al. (1995 [H14]) found that young refugees may be vulnerable to mental ill-health because of the trauma they have experienced. There is also some evidence to indicate that many young migrants and refugees do adapt fairly well (e.g. New Zealand Immigration Service 2004 [I25], Rasanathan et al. 2006 [H25], Watts et al. 2002 [I38]).
One of the main themes that emerges from research in this area concerns low rates of help-seeking behaviour, particularly for mental distress but also for help with matters such as family violence (e.g. Au 2002 [H4], Baxter et al. 2006 [H6], Chu et al. 2001 [H10], Hauraki 2005 [H19], Vong 2002b [H31]). A range of reasons is identified for this reluctance to seek help including stigma associated with mental ill-health (particularly in the Asian community), concerns about bringing shame on the family, a lack of familiarity about what services are available, and concerns or suspicions about providers of these services. Research that addresses these issues stresses the importance of service providers consulting with members of various ethnic communities (preferably other service professionals) when developing ways of working with refugee and migrant youth.
In general, there is a lack of research about young people's access to information about, their use of, or their need for other services such as those relating to employment assistance, income support, or housing. (No research was found, for example, on homelessness among these young people.)
Feeling safe expressing their ethnic identity, being accepted by and becoming part of the wider host community, and participating in civic, community and social activities
These two settlement goals have been combined here because there are obvious linkages between them. There is a relative dearth of research on young refugees and migrants participating in civic, community and social activities, however, one project from the New Settlers Programme at Massey University (Watts et al. 2002 [I38]) has found that these young people are generally positive about life in New Zealand and want to participate in New Zealand society (see also the Youth2000 research by Rasanathan et al. 2006 [H25] and the Refugee Voices project, Dibley and Dunstan 2002 [I9], NZIS 2004 [I25]). Some of these studies, and others (e.g. Maharaj 1993 [E74], Sobrun-Marahaj 2002 [H28]) also identified barriers to participation in that young migrants and refugees do not always feel accepted, or indeed safe, about expressing their ethnic identities in the wider community. The identity conflict, and even crisis, that may result from this may have a negative impact on their mental and physical wellbeing.
There is increasing interest among researchers about ethnic identities expressed by young people from migrant and refugee communities. Some of this literature explores identity in terms of well known psychological models of acculturation, that is, psychological adjustment to living in a society in which one's heritage culture is a minority culture. For example, Eyou et al. (2000 [I10]) found that young people who are integrated (able to identify with both their own community and their host society) have higher self esteem than those who are separated (strong identification with their own ethnic group but weak ties with the mainstream) or marginalised (weak identification with both their own group and the mainstream). Their findings suggest that the better self esteem of integrated young people may arise from their ability to live as part of both groups without being rejected by either.
Alongside these approaches to this question, there is a growing body of work that challenges some of the traditionally accepted ideas about the concept of adolescence as defined by western science (e.g. Tupuola 1993 [I33], 1998 [I31], 1999 [I32]) and about how first and second generation migrants acculturate in a host society (e.g. work on the '1.5 generation' by Bartley 2003 [I3], 2004 [cited in I3]).
A good deal of this work on identity comes from those who have grown up in New Zealand as the children of migrants and who are looking closely at the nature of their own and their peers' ethnic identity. They argue, for example, that young people who are New Zealand born and part of an ethnic minority migrant community are forging new identities that are complex and shifting, and that do not fit neatly either identities forged by their parents, or those of their Pakeha counterparts (e.g. Tunufa'i 2005 [I30], Tupuola 1999 [I32], Vaoiva 1999 [I35], see also Wurtzburg 2004 [I40]). Some work is also emerging on the links between ethnic identity and crime (Lindsey and Kearns 1994 [I21], Eggleston 2000 [F24]).
Work in this field primarily addresses ethnic identity among young migrants, but there is a growing amount of work relating to young refugees and ethnic identity (e.g. work by Bihi 1999 [I4], Guerin et al. 2003 [E53], and Humpage 1998a [E63], 1998b [E64], 2000a [I16], 2000b [E65], on young Somali refugees).
 As noted above, research relating specifically to international students has not been included here.
 There is a significant body of research in New Zealand about migrant experiences of employment but this research tends not to distinguish these experiences by age. The particular experiences of migrant and refugee young people (aged under 25 years) remain under-researched.