Youth Experiences of Cultural Identity and Migration: A Systems Perspective

  • Nazilla Khanlou
  • Amy Bender
  • Catriona Mill
  • Luz Maria Vazquez
  • Luis Rojas
Part of the Advances in Mental Health and Addiction book series (AMHA)


This chapter examines youth’s cultural identity in a multicultural and immigration receiving metropolis. We develop a systems conceptual framework to explicate youth cultural identity as shaped by the external environmental factors of social systems and youth’s individual factors and lived experiences. Our framework is informed by a social ecological perspective and by the Immigrant Youth Cultural Identity Project, which employed quantitative and qualitative methods. The sample population consisted of English speaking youth between 17 to 22 years who lived in a large Canadian city and were immigrants from Afghanistan and Iran, and descendants of immigrants from Italy and Portugal. Participants explained cultural identity as a fluid, complex and contested concept that cannot be reduced to one fixed definition. Implications for practice and research from micro, meso to macro system levels are provided.


Immigrant Youth Cultural Identity Youth Self-Esteem Youth Wellbeing Multiple Identities 



This research was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Standard Research Grant, Awarded 2003–2007). Dr. Nazilla Khanlou was the principal investigator for the IYCIP project, and Drs. Myers Siemiatycki and Paul Anisef co-investigators. The authors gratefully acknowledge the research assistants, Ms. Jane Koh and Ms. Stephanie de Young, who assisted with the literature review and gathered background information for this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nazilla Khanlou
    • 1
  • Amy Bender
    • 2
  • Catriona Mill
    • 3
  • Luz Maria Vazquez
    • 1
  • Luis Rojas
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of HealthYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of NursingUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.TorontoCanada
  4. 4.Casa Maíz Cultural CentreTorontoCanada

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