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Jamaican teen immigrants do better when they retain strong ties to original culture
Date:10/31/2012

URBANA Many young Jamaican immigrants are succeeding in the United States precisely because they remain strongly tied to Jamaican culture, said University of Illinois professor Gail M. Ferguson.

"Although many of these youths have forged a unique tricultural identity that draws from their Jamaican culture, African-American culture, and mainstream European American culture, the important factor in their academic and behavioral success is retaining strong ties to their Jamaican background," she said.

To learn how Jamaican immigrant teens were adjusting to life in their new country, the study surveyed 473 adolescentmother dyads from Jamaican immigrant families in the United States, comparing their well-being with teens from families on the island and from white and black American families.

The researchers asked mothers and teens about the teens' culture, grades, behavior, friendships, home life, community involvement, and character traits.

"Overall, Jamaican immigrant teens were doing just as well as their American peers in terms of grades and positive behavior. Older immigrant teens, in particular, were actually doing a little better than Jamaican teens in the Caribbean," she said.

However, immigrant teens who had shed their Jamaican culture in favor of either or both American cultures had much lower grades and less positive behavior than those who had kept a strong ethnic affiliation, Ferguson said.

But the study also found that adapting to life in their new country could depend on affiliating, at least to some extent, with two American cultures. That's a new finding and an important piece of the puzzle, she said.

Why? "It shows us that identifying with certain subcultures can be important for success in school. And assimilation, depending on where immigrants are from and the subculture into which they are assimilating, can also be disadvantageous, as when Jamaican immigrant teens assimilate into a
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Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
p-pickle@illinois.edu
217-244-2827
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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