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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/2684

Title: The immigrant child: psychological and socio-cultural adjustment to the Italian host culture.
Other Titles: Adattamento psicologico e socio-culturale del bambino immigrato
Authors: Dimitrova, Radosveta
Supervisor/Tutor: Tallandini, Maria Anna
Issue Date: 18-Apr-2008
Publisher: Università degli studi di Trieste
Abstract: The aim of this doctoral thesis was to deepen the knowledge of psychological and socio-cultural adjustment patterns in immigrant school-aged children in Italy. More specifically, the research was aimed at assessing whether the expression of emotional instability, prosocial behavior, aggression and depressive symptoms, differed between immigrant and native Italian and Slovene children. Special attention is dedicated to the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, accounting for different community facets and integration approaches adopted by the main ethnic communities of immigrants (i.e Albanian and Serbian). This area has been investigated because it presents distinctive characteristics due to the presence of two native communities - the Italian and the Slovene one which is an ethnic minority, possessing a particular minority status. The theoretical background of psychological and socio-cultural adjustment domains is conceptualised within a framework of immigrant communities developed by Ward and colleagues (Ward & Kennedy, 1999; Searle & Ward, 1990). Accordingly, psychological adjustment studied here concerns mental health aspects such as depressive symptoms, mood disturbances and general well-being, whereas socio-cultural adjustment refers to social competence and ability to interact adequately within the host society. Furthermore, the issues of psychological and socio-cultural adjustment are integrated into two conceptual models on development for children with immigrant and multicultural backgrounds. The first one is the model of Garcia Coll and Szalacha (2004), which examines the interaction of culture, ethnicity and immigration in relation to children’s developmental competencies. A key assumption is that immigrant children’s psychological, socio-cultural and cognitive development is influenced by their social position within a stratified society and by how developmental outcomes are promoted or inhibited by schools. The second model developed by Brody et al. (2002) provides an additional means to examine the relation between parental psychological well-being and children’s psychological and socio-cultural adjustment. In particular, parental psychological well-being such as higher self-esteem, greater optimism and lower depressive symptoms promotes supportive parent-child relationships that together facilitate the development of children’s competence in enabling them to cope effectively with stressful experiences. Based on these considerations, the present studies were guided by four hypotheses. First, it was expected that immigrant children due to their disadvantaged social position and migration-related life experiences would show more psychological and socio-cultural adjustment difficulties than their native peers. Second, we hypothesized that children’s psychological and socio-cultural outcomes would be linked to both language and cognitive skills, and that the association between these variables would be strongest for the immigrant group. Third, we explored adaptation processes through indicators of psychological and socio-cultural outcomes as reported by teachers. We expected to find higher levels of adjustment difficulties in immigrant than in non-immigrant children. Finally, negative parental immigration experiences including less positive sense of self, less optimism, more depressive symptoms and parenting distress were expected to predict compromised psychological functioning in children. The investigation was based on three different multiethnic samples of immigrant (Albanian, Russian and Serb) and non-immigrant (Italian and Slovene) school-aged children. They were tested with the Childhood Social Adjustment Capacity Indicators Questionnaire (Caprara et al., 1992), the Children’s Depression Inventory (Kovacs, 1988), the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test - Revised (Dunn & Dunn, 2000) and the Raven Coloured Progressive Matrices (Raven, 1984). Teachers were requested to complete the Childhood Social Adjustment Capacity Indicators Questionnaire (Caprara et al., 1992) and the Teacher Report Form (Achenbach, 1991). In addition, both parents were administered the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1979), the Life Orientation Test (Scheier & Carver, 1992), the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (Radloff, 1977) and the Parent Stress Index-Short Form (Abidin, 1993). The results confirmed previous conclusions that immigrant and non-immigrant group mean levels of adjustment differed significantly (Leavey et al., 2004; Atzaba-Poria et al., 2004; Stevens et al., 2003), pointing to psychological and socio-cultural difficulties that immigrant children experience in adjusting to the Italian host culture. There were four major findings. First, immigrant children showed more adjustment problems due to higher levels emotional instability, aggressive behavior, and depression, and lower levels of pro-social behavior than non-immigrant children. Second, there was a strong association between psychological and socio-cultural adjustment problems and lower cognitive capacities in the immigrant group of children who scored lower on both language and cognitive tests compared to the two non-immigrant groups. Third, children’s adjustment difficulties in response to the migration process were confirmed by their teachers’ reports indicating higher scores on emotional instability, aggression, internalizing, withdrawal, anxiety and depression. Finally, both immigrant parents showed lower levels of psychological well-being due to lower self-esteem and higher depressive symptoms, higher parenting distress and parent-child dysfunctional interaction. The results of this thesis add to the findings (e.g Leavey et al., 2004; Atzaba-Poria et al., 2004), that children involved in immigration transition display more problematic psychological and socio-cultural adjustment patterns compared to native-born children. The relevance of these findings can be seen in both theoretical and applied research contexts. On the one hand, future investigations into the field of immigration may utilize these outcomes to gain an insight into the problems experienced by immigrant children in adjusting to a new Italian culture. On the other hand, the results indicate ways to enhance support programs in order to assist immigrant children’s successful psychological and socio-cultural adjustment. This thesis is composed by seven chapters starting with theoretical introduction to the theme of psychological and socio-cultural adjustment domains (Chapter 1), and an overview of recent immigration phenomena in Italy (Chapter 2). The following chapters present four empirical studies (Chapters 3 to 6). Chapter 3 aimed at investigating psychological (depressive symptoms) and socio-cultural adjustment (emotional instability, pro-social, and aggressive behavior) in Albanian and Serbian immigrant in comparison to Italian non-immigrant children. In addition, adjustment correlates of immigrant children’s cognitive skills (Chapter 4) and teachers’ reports on immigrant children’s psychological and socio-cultural problems (Chapter 5) were also investigated. Chapter 6 examines parental psychological well-being and children’s adjustment. Conclusions, suggestions for future research and practical interventions with immigrant children are discussed in the seventh and final chapter.
PhD cycle: XX Ciclo
PhD programme: PSICOLOGIA
Description: 2006/2007
Keywords: Immigrant children
Psychological and socio-cultural adjustment
Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region
Main language of document: en
Type: Tesi di dottorato
Doctoral Thesis
Scientific-educational field: M-PSI/04
NBN: urn:nbn:it:units-7271
Appears in Collections:Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche

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Contents.pdfContents160.08 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
Introduction.pdfIntroduction82.16 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
Chapter 1.pdfChapter 1252.04 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
Chapter 2.pdfChapter 2166.06 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
Chapter 3.pdfChapter 3212.17 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
Chapter 4.pdfChapter 4225.01 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
Chapter 5.pdfChapter 5279.77 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
Chapter 6.pdfChapter 6201.53 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
Chapter 7.pdfChapter 7119.91 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
References.pdfReferences255.14 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
Acknowledgments.pdfAcknowledgements66.15 kBAdobe PDFView/Open
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