Youth and ethnic identity in Scotland

Sunday 6 August 2006

A study of young people of different ethnic origins in Scotland has found that minority ethnic youths place more importance on being Scottish than their white counterparts.

The research, carried out by psychologists at the Universities of St Andrews and Stirling, found that minority ethnic young people often value two cultures, drawing on both and preferring to consider themselves in terms of hybrid identities such as Scottish Asian or Scottish Muslim.

The study, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, also found that there remain considerable barriers limiting ethnic mixing among young people in Scotland, particularly in universities.

The study focussed on how young people from different ethnic groups experienced leaving school, comparing the differences in transition to adulthood. It paints a previously unknown picture of the different experiences and decisions faced by Scottish youths of different cultural backgrounds at an important stage of their lives.

The study, led by Dr Clare Cassidy of St Andrews alongside Dr Rory O’Connor of Stirling, involved two sets of interviews with 15-18 year old participants – one held while they were still at school and one a year later.

Dr Cassidy said: “Experiences and decisions made when leaving school can have powerful reverberations throughout the course of one’s adulthood. Until now relatively little was known about how young people from minority ethnic communities understand and respond to this transition. We made some interesting discoveries about how different ethnic groups make the transition from school to further or higher education.”

The researchers interviewed participants focussing on topics including education, home and family, social networks and leisure, access to information and services, ethnicity and identity and future plans and aspirations. They later administered questionnaires gathering information on self-esteem, general health, stress, social support, depression, coping strategies, attributions for negative life events, ethnic identity, religious identification and perceived discrimination.

They found that while most of the young people under study chose to go onto further or higher education, those from minority ethnic backgrounds were more likely to concentrate on the medical sciences. Furthermore, their decision-making was more likely to be influenced by family or community expectations.

They also found that young Pakistani people were the least likely to move away to study and were more likely to express concerns about distractions from educational goals and/or religious commitments if they moved away from home.

Dr Cassidy explained: “For some participants the drinking alcohol, pub and club culture of university life conflicted with their cultural and religious beliefs. As a result they found the transition to the social side of university more of a challenge than did their white counterparts. This raises questions as to whether universities should be providing ways of socialising and support suitable for the particular needs of young people from minority ethnic groups.”

Chinese students meanwhile were found to be the least likely to base their socialising activities around pubs or clubs or in city centres and were more likely to be concerned about not being independent enough to leave home.

In terms of mixing with contemporaries belonging to different ethnic backgrounds, the researchers found that both white and Pakistani participants had significantly higher numbers of friends from within their own ethnic group, even after progressing to university.

“The findings suggest that there is a need to gain a greater understanding of both structural and psychological factors that may contribute to lack of ethnic mixing in further or higher education,” said Dr Cassidy.

The full report ‘Young people’s experience of transitions to adulthood: A study of minority ethnic and white young people’ by Clare Cassidy, Rory O’Connor and Nike Dorrer (formerly of University of Stirling), is published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as part of the Black and Minority Ethnic Young People series.

The report and summary of findings are available as free downloads from .

Printed copies are available from York Publishing Services, 64 Hallfield Road, York YO31 7ZQ (01904 430033) priced £15.95 plus £2.00 p&p.



CLARE CASSIDY IS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW ON: 01334 462065 or mobile 07929 789135

Issued by Beattie Media – on behalf of the University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected]

Ref: Youth and ethnic identity 070806.doc

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