East African Immigrant Females: Adolescent Developmental Protective/Risk Factors

Sponsor: NIH National Institute of Nursing Research

Location(s): United States


Racial/ethnic minorities represent the future majority in the United States and their health needs must be addressed as a measure of public health. Immigrant children are the most rapidly growing segment of the child population of the US, with recent immigrants representing 22% of school-age children and adolescents. African immigrants represent a growing segment of the immigrant population with 47.7% of the entire African born population had entered the US in 2000 or later2. A relatively healthy population upon arrival, African immigrants are at risk for the degradation of health status over time in the U.S. as is seen in other immigrant. To mitigate this risk, and to address overall healt promotion in this relatively unstudied population, this study aims to gain an understanding of the unique strengths and risk factors of this population, which contribute to overall health and social success. Development is structured by gender, and this study will examine the unique experience of female adolescents. Adolescence is a pivotal time point for developing health behaviors and therefore, identifying strengths and risk factors that contribute to the development of African immigrant youth is essential to promoting healthy development and thereby increasing healthy behaviors. This has the potential to bolster future promotion and prevention programs with culturally competent, developmentally appropriate, feasible, and effective interventions.

Current positive youth development frameworks acknowledge the unique strengths, protective factors and risk factors contributing to adolescent development. Screening tools, treatment and intervention plans, as well as community programs that integrate these protective/risk factors have been developed using knowledge gained from adolescent populations. However, little is known of the developmental processes leading to decision- making and health behavior development in the growing African immigrant adolescent population. It is unclear whether the information on strengths and risk factors currently in practice are applicable to this unique population. The purpose of this grounded theory study is to examine the developmental strengths and protective/risk factors of this immigrant group with a focus on adolescent females. This study aims to 1) explore adolescent perceptions, beliefs and attitudes toward health and self-development; 2) describe factors across social contexts that contribute to risk and protective factors, developmental assets, and health behaviors; and 3) describe the resources and barriers to healthy adolescent growth and development (e.g., adequacy of health information and social and tangible support, acculturation). The overall goal of the study is to develop a theory of risk and protective factors inherent in the female African immigrant adolescent population. Twenty to twenty-five early adolescent female East African immigrants, ages 11-18, will be recruited from community centers in the San Francisco Bay area to participate in this grounded theory study. The Risk/Protective Factor Framework developed by Hawkins, Catalano and Miller and Bronfenbrenner's Ecological model will provide the theoretical underpinnings for the development of interview guides. The interviews will explore various aspects of development including, but not limited to health, health behaviors (nutrition, physical activity, and risk behaviors) and self-development (self-esteem, self-identity, interpersonal relationships) with respect to the experience of immigration and adaptation to life in the US. Using procedures of grounded theory method, the iterative analysis of data collected will be used to reach an understanding of the phenomenon and theoretical integration will result in a grounded theory/model. This population will benefit from evidence-based theory that begins to highlight the unique developmental strengths as well as health risks of African immigrant females. Understanding the unique risks and protective factors of this population, which contribute to overall health and social success, is key in overall health promotion and in preventing the degradation of health status so often seen in immigrant groups. This may, in turn, result in program development and supportive interventions that are developmentally and culturally appropriate and effective.