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

Ylva Svensson, Moin Syed

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10 Scopus citations


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

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101056
JournalJournal of Applied Developmental Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this manuscript was supported by an Innovative Small Grant from the Society for Research on Adolescence, a University of Minnesota Grant-in-Aid, and a University of Minnesota Grand Challenges Research Grant, all awarded to Moin Syed.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Inc.


  • Ethnic identity
  • Immigrant experience
  • Macro-context
  • Narrative


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