Identity, Acculturation and Adaptation in Muslim Youth

Published 2011. Contacts: Colleen Ward and Jaimee Stuart

To access a refereed conference publication Ward, C., Adam, Z., & Stuart, J. (2011). Psychological and sociocultural adaptation of Asian Muslim youth.  4th International Asian Health and Well-being Conference Proceedings. click here.


The research examines how Muslim youth (age 13-19) preserve traditional values and practices while participating in the wider New Zealand society, how they negotiate issues pertaining to identity and how well that adapt socially and psychologically to life in New Zealand.

One hundred and eighty-two Muslim youth (72% overseas-born, largely from the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific) completed a modified version of the International Comparative Study of Ethno-cultural Youth survey.


Key findings include:

  • Islamic identity is stronger than ethnic identity in Muslim youth.
  • Strong Islamic identity and engagement in Muslim practices are associated with greater life satisfaction, better school adjustment, less antisocial behaviour and fewer symptoms of psychological distress in Muslim youth.
  • National (New Zealand) identity is unrelated to these outcomes.
  • Support from family members (congruence) is associated with better social and psychological outcomes for youth.
  • The frequency of perceived discrimination is moderately low, but is associated with poor adaptation outcomes.
  • New Zealand-born Muslim youth reported more behavioural problems than their overseas-born peers.
  • Muslim youth reported greater life satisfaction, fewer behavioural problems and fewer symptoms of psychological distress than both Maori and Pakeha youth.