, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 654-671
Date: 25 Nov 2008

Cultural Identities of Adolescent Immigrants: A Three-Year Longitudinal Study Including the Pre-Migration Period

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Abstract

This article investigates the cultural identities of adolescent immigrants in the pre-migration period and during the first 3 years after immigration. The target population consists of high-school Jewish adolescents from Russia and Ukraine participating in an Israeli immigration program. In this program, Jewish adolescents immigrate to Israel without their parents, live in kibbutzim and boarding schools, and study in Israeli schools. Participants filled out questionnaires four times: half a year before their departure from the homeland and once a year for three consecutive years after their arrival to Israel. Changes in the cultural identities during immigration were curvilinear. Three stages were distinguished: devaluation of the homeland and idealization of the country of immigration in the pre-migration period, disillusionment with the receiving country and strengthening of the homeland cultural identity in the first year after immigration, and the formation of an inconsistent bi-cultural identity in the later post-migration period. Throughout the entire post-migration period, immigrants’ attitude towards the receiving country was more positive than their attitude towards their homeland; however, immigrants’ sense of belonging to the homeland was stronger than their sense of belonging to the receiving country. Pre-migration cultural identities and perceived discrimination in the receiving country predicted post-migration cultural identities of immigrants. Immigrant adolescents from ethnically homogenous Jewish families had a less positive attitude towards Russia/Ukraine, a more positive attitude towards Israel, and a weaker sense of belonging to Russia/Ukraine as compared to immigrants from ethnically mixed families.