Dual lives result in better well-being for Arab youth: visiting lecturer

Children who immigrate to Canada may lead dual lives in order to fit in with their peers while maintaining the cultural traditions of their families, according to a visiting psychology researcher who will deliver a lecture here next week.

“The research shows that it’s possible to have double identities, and in fact, those who do, usually have better psychological well-being,” said John Berry, professor emeritus at Queen’s University.

Dr. Berry will be in town to deliver two keynote lectures on the subjects of acculturation and inter-cultural psychology at an international symposium on Arab youth. The two-day event, which begins May 29, will bring together psychology researchers to learn more about current research on Arab youth identity and cross-cultural studies.

Berry – whose expertise includes intercultural relations and cross-cultural psychology, especially in the areas of immigration and family – said many Arab youths feel like they’re caught between two worlds, trying to keep their parents happy by maintaining their cultural and religious traditions, while trying to adapt to Canadian society and its values.

“It’s a complex issue for them,” he said, “and it’s often exacerbated by racism and discrimination, which makes the transition more difficult.”

However, those who successfully employ a system of “double engagement” by maintaining their beliefs and observing traditions with their families while adopting many of the values of their peers are usually the most well-adjusted, he said.

“They have two support systems and two sets of friends,” he said. “There are a lot of benefits.”

Berry said research conducted by him and others that support the double identity theory has important implications for public policy, especially in the areas of education and health care, where schools and hospitals should implement practices that enable young immigrants to maintain their traditions while embracing Canadian values and ideals.

Berry will deliver his first lecture – geared more for a lay audience – on May 29 at 9:30 a.m. in room 104, Toldo Health Education Centre. His second lecture, on theory and method in cross cultural and inter-cultural psychology, is on May 30 at 9 a.m. in the same room.