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Second generation Sikh adolescent males : a grounded theory model of self and identity construction Sidhu, Kamaljit Kaur

Abstract

Empirical research indicates that the adolescent years are critical in the development of a coherent sense of self and the subsequent emergence of identity. The construction of a sense of self and identity can be especially complex for children of South Asian immigrants in Canada. These adolescents are similar to all other yOuth in that they share the same biological and cognitive changes during this period of development. Yet, minority youth are unique in that their identity development is embedded in their ethnicity, status as minority group members, and the process of acculturation. The effects of these contextual factors have not been given due attention in the identity development literature. In this study, I examined self and identity construction among one specific subgroup of South Asians in Canada, second generation Sikh adolescent males! The grounded theory method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss & Corbin, 1990, 1998) was used to examine the construction of a sense of self and identity of second generation Sikh adolescent males. Through audiotaped, semi-structured interviews in English and Panjabi, 20 Sikh males aged 16 to 19 years were asked to describe how they were constructing a sense of who they are. Transcribed interviews were systematically analysed to develop a model of this process. Resulting from this analysis, the core process in defining a sense of self and identity is being strong enough to stay on track. Three life scripts are incorporated in the construction of the track: the Panjabi ethnic sociocultural script, the Sikh religious/spiritual script, and the dominant culture sociocultural script. The initial track is shaped through parents' selective integration of elements of the Panjabi ethnic script and the Sikh religious/spiritual script. As Sikh males become socialized in the mainstream context, inconsistent elements of all three scripts are negotiated in the reconstruction of the track and maintenance of a track. This reiterative process is affected by issues of striving to be set, managing visibility, belonging while avoiding exclusion, and being guided versus doing it alone. As each young Sikh man negotiates discrepant elements of the three scripts and is confronted with developmental tasks of getting a good education, acquiring a prosperous career, becoming married, and having children, his sense of who he is and who he is becoming becomes further integrated. The model articulates how the construction of a sense of self and identity is embedded in the life contexts of second generation adolescent Sikh males. Implications for theory as well as intervention by mental health professionals and educators are presented.

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