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Understanding the effects of acculturation on Chinese-Canadian female youth smoking Shun, Li


In a recent report, the Canadian Council on Social Development emphasized the importance of acculturative influences on substance use by immigrant youth, including smoking (Kunz and Hanvey, 2000). Nevertheless, research on youth smoking in response to acculturation is quite limited in Canada, especially concerning recent immigrants from East Asia, who represent 23% of the total immigrant population in the country (Census Canada, 2001). The majority of the literature and research on ethnic youth and tobacco use comes out of the United States (Ma, 1999; Chen, 2004). Considering Canada and America have been pursuing different immigration policies which have resulted in dissimilar socio-cultural environments and subsequently, dissimilar acculturation processes, the lack of studies in this area in Canada constitutes a gap that need to be addressed by researchers. In addition, most of the study carried out in the United States drew on surveys, yet qualitative interview methods are critical for learning about the role of acculturation in youth adoption of host country cultural practices such as smoking. The research investigated how acculturation processes affect smoking uptake among recent immigrant girls from China. The purpose of the research was to explore how the smoking behavior of this specific population might be linked to the transformational processes young Chinese immigrant girls go through in negotiating their ethnic identities and adjusting their cultural values to life in Canada. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 Chinese-Canadian girls (10 smokers/10 non-smokers) currently attending university or college in the Greater Vancouver area during 2007. Interview questions addressed acculturation, cultural values, ethnic identity, peer pressure and parenting style. The Vancouver Index of Acculturation was used to measure participants' levels of acculturation. Results show that the Chinese-Canadian female smokers demonstrated strong 'cultural hybridity' in adopting strategies that accommodated values from both their home and host communities. The study found that the smokers experienced a number of acculturative stresses in their lives, and that smoking was used in part as a coping strategy to manage cultural differences, moderate identity confusion, and reduce feelings of isolation, particularly during the early phase of immigration. Disrupted and problematic immigrant family structure was identified as another major factor contributing to so-called "downward assimilation" in which situation immigrant youth had higher chance of initiating smoking.

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