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Multiculturalism and Swedish Immigration

Authors Sarah C. Nelson
Lauren Mitchell
Mariel Carlson
Moin Syed
Ann Frisén
Maria Wängqvist
Ylva Svensson
Fanny Gyberg
Published in Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood (SSEA) 7th Biennal Conference, 15 October, Miami, FL
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Subject categories Psychology


Immigration is a significant historical, cultural and political issue in the United States. In the United States, immigrants are expected to “become American” by adopting American cultural, economic, and social practices while the practices of their homeland (Huntington, 2004). Within this context of expected assimilation, researchers have demonstrated that the best adjusted immigrant emerging adults are those who are able to integrate their past identities with their current contexts (see Berry, Phinney, Same, & Vedder, 2006). Little attention, to our knowledge has been paid to the ways in which immigrant youth in other cultures best adjust to their new contexts. Sweden represents an interesting contrast to the United States in this inquiry, as its immigration narrative appears to be one of multiculturalism rather than of assimilation. Swedish immigration policy endorses “equality, freedom of choice, and partnership,” affording immigrants all the benefits of the social welfare state including voting rights, the freedom to choose assimilation or distinctiveness, and partnership in the support of instruction in children’s native language in schools (Westin, 2006). It remains to be seen if in this context, wherein multiculturalism is espoused, integration of cultural past and present still predicts the best adjustment outcomes for immigrant emerging adults. The aim of the present study is to understand the cultural context of Swedish immigrants. What culturally dominant narratives do emerging adults immigrating to Sweden encounter and how do they navigate their own identities in this context? In order to answer this question we prompted emerging adults who are Swedish natives and immigrants to provide stories of times when their personal story diverged from the “norm.” These narrative data are currently in the initial stages of analysis by the research team. A coding scheme is being developed utilizing three levels of analysis: 1) the narrative’s valence structure (that is increasing, decreasing, stable low, or stable high valence), 2) the narrative’s specific content themes and characters, and 3) the “master cultural narrative” which the participant’s narrative appears to be counteracting. This study is part of a larger collaboration with between researchers in the U.S. and Sweden. Data from approximately 750 adolescents and emerging adults from immigrant and non-immigrant backgrounds will be analyzed. This presentation will detail the narrative findings from this coding scheme as well as provide initial hypothesizes about the connection between a multicultural immigration policy and the narrated experience of immigrants to Sweden.

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