Dissertation

Who Am I? Cultural Identity Formation of Arab American Youth

Arab American youth are a complex and diverse population in America who are often misunderstood, misclassified and misrepresented. These youth face a socio-political climate in the United States that has painted the Arab culture in a negative light. This has caused psychological and emotional stressors on them, some of which are negatively affecting their ability to embrace their Arab identity. Another reaction to these stressors is a complete rejection of their American identity, putting a strain on their ability to assimilate into American society. Coupled with this are the challenges Arab American youth face in navigating their identity through their home life and their school life, which at times contradict one another. At school, students are being discriminated against and othered. Moreover, Arab American students are battling a disconnect between the social norms of their school life and home life. Using an adapted framework from Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model of Human Development, this qualitative exploratory case study examines the factors that lead to cultural identity development in Arab American youth. Through interviews of seven Arab American youth this study serves to enlighten administrators, faculty of K-20 agencies and parents on how to best support this population in positively forming their cultural identity.

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