You are here:

Xenophobia, Ethnic Community, and Immigrant Youths' Friendship Network Formation

ADIQDTPPPSEASDHL Volume 41, Number 162, ISSN 0001-8449


Immigrant youth often rebuild their friendships and other social networks after arriving in a new country. The difficulties involved can threaten their psychosocial development. Formation of social networks needs to be understood within the macro sociocultural context that shapes the experience. Nonetheless, the current literature on social network formation rarely captures that context. Knowledge about immigrant youths' social network, for example, is often embedded in assimilation, ethnic identity, and adaptation literature. This paper examines how the sociocultural context enables immigrant youth to rebuild their friendship networks. A critical ethnography was conducted in the northwest region of the United States. Sixteen Taiwanese immigrant youth and their parents (N = 13) participated in the study. Data collection consisted of semi-structured in-depth interviews, a demographic questionnaire, and participant observations. The findings showed that because of limited English proficiency, the youth kept at a distance from American peers to avoid nervousness and embarassment. Further analysis, derived from Xenophobia, found that limited English proficiency increases segregation between American peers ("we") and immigrant youth ("the other"). The English as a Second Language program inadvertently perpetuates the immigrants' sense of "otherness" and increases the odds of their becoming targets of discrimination. A protective factor for these youths is living near an ethnic community because the inclusion of coethnics increases new friendship networks. Knowledge about the teen culture in coethnics' countries of origin (China, Hong Kong, or the United States), also influences their selection of friends.


Tsai, J.H.C. (2006). Xenophobia, Ethnic Community, and Immigrant Youths' Friendship Network Formation. Adolescence (San Diego): an international quarterly devoted to the physiological, psychological, psychiatric, sociological, and educational aspects of the second decade of human life, 41(162), 285-298. Retrieved April 22, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ERIC on April 18, 2013. [Original Record]

ERIC is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education.

Copyright for this record is held by the content creator. For more details see ERIC's copyright policy.