Abstract: The Influence of Colonial Mentality on the Ethnic Identity Formation of Second Generation Filipino American Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12937 The Influence of Colonial Mentality on the Ethnic Identity Formation of Second Generation Filipino American Youth

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 8:30 AM
Pacific Concourse O (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Maria J. Ferrera, MA, LCSW , DePaul University, Faculty, Chicago, IL
Background and Purpose: There is much evidence that profoundly challenges the Asian model minority myth that portrays Asians as problem free. One of them is the high incidence of depression among Filipino Americans, particularly second generation Filipino American youth (SGFAs) (Rumbaut, 1999). However, there is a dearth of information regarding the mental health of Filipino Americans and why the incidence of depression is so high (Araneta, 1993; Uba, 1994). While biculturalism has been considered the optimal trajectory above all acculturation strategies, the detrimental effects of adopting an assimilationist strategy has been established (LaFramboise et. al., 1993; Ward, 2001). With regard to ethnic identity development: ethnic pride is found to have a positive effect on overall adjustment among immigrant youth within various ethnic groups (Phinney, 1993), and higher levels of Filipino ethnic identification is significantly associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms among Filipino Americans (Mossakowski, 2003). In line with an ecological systems perspective, this study considers what is a particularly salient context for Filipinos living in America--their history of colonization. Scholars suggest that colonial mentality is commonly adopted among Filipino Americans and this contributes to weak ethnic identity (David, 2006). In light of this literature, this study investigates 1) how colonial mentality may influence the bicultural competence of SGFAs and, 2) how this may impact their ethnic identity formation process and overall mental health outcomes.

Methods: This study utilized a mixed methods approach to understanding the experiences of SGFAs. In-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 12 male and 18 female U.S.-born Filipino Americans between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. Each participant completed a battery of scales that measure ethnic identity, family conflict and cohesion, perceived discrimination, colonial mentality, and depressive symptoms. The extended case method (ECM) was used in order to build on existing theories of acculturation and ethnic identity formation among ethnic minority youth, and consider the unique position of SGFAs in light of their political history (Buroway, 1998). A thematic analysis of the transcribed interviews (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006) assisted in highlighting common themes between each interview.

Results: Results reveal the powerful role colonial mentality plays within family socialization, as it both promotes successful assimilation and hampers Filipino ethnic identity formation among SGFAs. In essence, cultural retention is often devalued among parents of SGFAs. SGFAs express a desire to learn more about their culture and heritage, but often do not have the resources to do so. Additionally, when quantitative data is compared with qualitative content, participants' perceptions of their own ethnic identity and relationship with Filipino culture is not fully captured by pencil and paper measurements.

Conclusions and Implications: Qualitative results highlight the complexities of the ethnic identity formation process, and how a history of colonization that is experienced by many other ethnic groups may significantly weaken their ethnic identity, leaving them vulnerable to depression. Understanding the complexities of this process stresses the importance of retaining culture within the family of ethnic youth who have, often to their detriment, learned to assimilate well.