Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Social Work

First Advisor

Enid O. Cox, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Susan Manning

Third Advisor

Judith Wise


Acculturation, Adolescents, Immigrants, Mental health, Radicalization, Refugees


The purpose of this qualitative study was to uncover the meaning of acculturation as experienced by the Russian refugee adolescents in the domain of peer relationships. This qualitative study implemented a purposeful sampling strategy. In-depth interviews were conducted with 12 refugee adolescents from Russia (3 ethnic Russians and 9 Meskhetian Turks), male and female, aged 15-18, who resided in Denver, Colorado. Applying Moustakas's (1994) phenomenology method of analysis, 8 main themes emerged. The essence of the phenomenon can be described in terms of the refugee adolescents' need for self-worth and belongingness. Belongingness is understood as identification with and acceptance by peers of the culture of origin and host culture in a culture-contact situation upon immigration. It was found that exclusion by peers pushed refugee adolescents to search for restoration of dignity, acceptance, and identification with other culture(s) available to them. The findings revealed important factors moderating acculturation to the American culture in the peer relationships domain: refugee adolescents' perception of pre-migration experience, a limited pool of potential partners, deprivation of the adult status, perceived discrepancy in the level of maturity between themselves and their American peers, cultural discrepancies in understanding friendship and ways of courtship, English language competence/use/preference, and perceived discrimination/negative treatment by part of the American peers from the dominant culture. In particular, negative treatment received from members of the dominant American culture was identified as a factor moderating acculturation to non-dominant American cultures in the peer relationships domain, and along with other factors, served as a basis for identification of the participants with the heterogeneous group of immigrant/minority youth from different countries who perceived similar negative treatment from their American counterparts. Perceived negative treatment was found to be a powerful risk factor, creating conditions for reactive identity formation towards the American culture, idealization of an oppositional culture, and self-radicalization. Implications for social work education, research, and practice, as well as future research opportunities are suggested.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Andrew A. Morozov


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

214 p.


Social work