Examining School, Home, and Community Acculturation Experiences of Four Liberian Immigrant Youths in the United States



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Historically, Liberian immigrants to the United States tended to be wealthy, educated individuals who wanted their children to acquire a Western education. The thirteen-year Liberian Civil War resulted in a new wave of U.S. migration. Many recent Liberian immigrants hold low socio-economic statuses. Some came to this country illiterate or with gaps in their education. This has created a cultural-educational gap amongst newly arrived Liberian immigrants. Many young Liberian immigrants struggle with educational and socialization issues.

Studies have been conducted on the acculturation experiences of youths from Europe, Asia, and South and Central America. Yet to date, very little research has been done on the lives of African youth, especially those who emigrated from Liberia after the civil war. Their voices have been missing from the literature.

This qualitative study provides narratives of four Liberian immigrant youths, between the ages of 18 and 22 years old, who formerly attended schools in Liberia, have lived in the U.S. less than ten years, and have attended at least three years of high school in the United States. Each youth was interviewed regarding their school, home, and community acculturation experiences. Excerpts of their interviews allow the reader to hear the participants' stories in their own words.

Findings of the research from emergent themes indicate that the Liberian immigrant youths had many commonalities in their acculturation experiences such as: accent ridicule, bullying by peers, fights between African Americans and Liberian immigrants, and lack of appreciation for African cultures. The participants also struggled with ethnic identity issues, limited finances, and unjust educational and social systems in the United States. All four Liberian immigrants experienced some type of external and internal conflicts.

A relationship was found between the possession of resiliency traits and the Liberian immigrant youths' abilities to handle conflicts and successfully acculturate to the United States. Two participants possessed strong resiliency characteristics such as autonomy, problem solving abilities, abilities to forgive, a sense of purpose and future, and creativity. They had favorable acculturation experiences, successfully graduating from high school. Two other participants lacked resiliency traits and had less favorable acculturation experiences. They succumbed to external and internal conflicts and dropped out of high school.