Journal of Social Issues

Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 68, No. 3, 2012, pp. 473–492

Going Global: New Pathways for Adolescents and Emerging Adults in a Changing World

Lene Arnett Jensen∗ and Jeffrey Jensen Arnett∗ Clark University

This article reviews theory and research on the implications of globalization for cultural identity formation in adolescence (ages 10–18) and emerging adulthood (ages 18–29). Theories of immigrant acculturation are extended to globalization to demonstrate how adolescent and emerging adult cultural identity development follows a variety of pathways in a global world. The article includes a discussion of how this opening up of plural developmental pathways comes with risks and opportunities. Here, cultural identity confusion, civic involvement, and gender equality are discussed.

In today’s globalizing world, adolescents (ages 10–18) and emerging adults (ages 18–29) seldom grow up knowing of only one culture. Rather, they in- creasingly have interactions with people from diverse cultures, either first-hand or indirectly through various media such a TV and the Internet. Facebook, for example, has more than 900 million users with the majority residing outside the United States and being under 25 years of age (Facebook Press Room, 2012). The flow across the world of ideas, goods, and people is not new but the current extent and speed of globalization are unprecedented.

The starting premise here is that due to globalization developing a cultural identity in the course of adolescence and emerging adulthood has become more complex. For many people it is no longer a question of becoming an adult member of one culture but instead of figuring out how to negotiate multiple cultures (Arnett, 2002; Jensen, 2003, 2012). In effect, globalization expands the psychological task of forming a cultural identity to an increasingly large number of people (Chiu & Cheng, 2007). Here, we extend theories of immigrant acculturation to the globalization phenomenon to differentiate and understand pathways to

∗Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Lene Arnett Jensen or Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Clark University, Department of Psychology, 950 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01610 [e-mails: LJensen@ClarkU.edu, Arnett@JeffreyArnett.com].

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cultural identity formation. Then we discuss how outcomes linked to diverse cultural identities are varied, ranging from positives such as civic involvement and greater gender equality to negatives such as cultural identity confusion (Aneesh, 2012) and psychopathology (see also Diaz, Schneider, & Pwogwam Santé Mantal, 2012).

Before addressing the intersection of globalization and cultural identity, how- ever, we define the term cultural identity. We also discuss in more detail what we mean by globalization, and why it may be particularly salient not only for adolescents but also for emerging adults in the diverse places where this phase of life has become pronounced (Arnett, 2011).

A Definition of Cultural Identity

A cultural identity encompasses the key areas that Erikson (1968) emphasized as central to the formation of an adolescent’s individual identity. These key areas pertain to ideology (beliefs and values), love (personal relationships), and work. Erikson’s focus was on how adolescents make choices about these key areas to arrive at a unique sense of self within the culture in which they live. In contrast, forming a cultural identity involves making choices about the cultures with which one identifies.

Forming a cultural identity thus involves adopting important beliefs and prac- tices of one or more cultural communities (Jensen, 2003). For example, the extent to which one’s moral decisions are based on familial and communal obligations, or adherence to spiritual precepts, or notions of autonomy and independence typically constitute significant elements of one’s cultural identity (Jensen, 2008a).

Researchers conducting work on ethnic identity formation in many ways ad- dress issues similar to those involved in cultural identity formation (e.g., Umaña- Taylor, 2004). A central focus of research on ethnic identity formation is how members of ethnic and racial minority groups negotiate their identifications with their own group in the context of living among other ethnic and racial groups (Phinney, 1990; Phinney & Baldelomar, 2011). In other words, developing an ethnic identity—like a cultural identity—involves deciding on affiliations among different communities. One difference between research on ethnic identity for- mation and on cultural identity formation as described here is that the former focuses on minority groups. However, cultural identity formation in the context of globalization also pertains to people who form part of a majority culture but who still have exposure to other cultures as well. For example, Hindu Indian ado- lescents living in India with exposure to the global economy and media negotiate culturally diverse custom complexes in forming a cultural identity. As Saraswathi and her colleagues have observed, Indian adolescents may observe Valentine’s day by exchanging sweets and cards while simultaneously desiring or ending up

 

 

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with a marriage arranged by their family (Saraswathi, 1997; Saraswathi, Mistry, & Dutta, 2011). Or to give another example, Dutch college students in Holland have recently started camel farms to sell camel’s milk to Moroccan and Somali immigrants, a career path greeted with puzzlement by their college professors (Heingartner, 2009). Also, as Aneesh (2012) discusses, young adults in India’s call centers balance the norms of their own culture with the economic demand to internalize the norms of the distant cultures of their phone customers. One impor- tant similarity between ethnic and cultural identity formation pertains to the issue of dominance. As diverse ethnic, racial, and cultural groups come into contact with one another, there are invariably differences in status and power among those groups.

Globalization and the Focus on Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood

As noted at the outset, globalization involves a multidirectional flow of people, goods, and ideas (Tomlinson, 1999). The impact of globalization is worldwide. At the same time, however, experiences with globalization vary by location. For example, an ethos of individual autonomy and secular values flows from the West to other parts of the world (Yang et al., 2011). The movement of migrants, however, is far more often from less developed to more developed countries than the other way around (Martin & Zurcher, 2008).

The influence of globalization on cultural identity formation may be par- ticularly salient in adolescence and emerging adulthood. By 2008—for the first time in human history—more people were living in urban areas than in rural ones (Population Reference Bureau, 2008), and this migration has been led mainly by emerging adults (Hugo, 2005). In urban areas, young people come into con- tact with the ideology and values promoted by the global economy, including independence, consumerism, and individual choice (Arnett, 2011).

Media such as television, movies, music, and the Internet also contribute to the rapid and extensive spread of ideas across cultures, and adolescents and emerging adults have more of an interest in popular and media culture compared to chil- dren or adults (Dasen, 2000; Schlegel, 2011). For example, market researchers aim to sell to “global teens” because urban adolescents worldwide follow sim- ilar consumption patterns and have similar preferences for “global brands” of music, videos, clothing, and so on (Friedman, 2000). As we discuss below, too, worldwide media have also emerged as important in youth civic involvement and movements.

Furthermore, adolescence and emerging adulthood are a time of life with a pronounced openness to diverse cultural beliefs and behaviors. Research has noted that, in many ways, adolescents and emerging adults have not yet settled on particular beliefs and behaviors (Arnett, 2000, 2004, 2011). Some research

 

 

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with immigrants to the United States has also shown that adolescents change their behaviors, beliefs, values, and identifications more than adults do (Jensen & Dost- Gozkan, 2012; Nguyen & Williams, 1989; Phinney, Ong, & Madden, 2000). This phenomenon, also known as dissonant acculturation (Portes, 1997), may apply not only to immigrants but also more generally to adolescents and emerging adults who are exposed to globalization. As we will discuss later, it is this propensity of adolescents and emerging adults to be open to new beliefs and behaviors that may entail both opportunities and risks.

Plural Pathways to Cultural Identity Formation

In a globalized world where many adolescents and emerging adults navigate multiple cultures, cultural identity development becomes more diverse. For most of human history, it seems likely that, for most people, cultural identity development was relatively simple. Children were born into a culture and, in the course of childhood, adopted the ways of that culture as their own ways and as the basis of their cultural identity (e.g., Mead, 1928; Schlegel & Barry, 1991). This pattern of cultural identity development can still be observed today in traditional cultures (e.g., Whiting & Edwards, 1988), but the number of adolescents and emerging adults living in such cultures has shrunk radically.

One model that fruitfully can be used to understand how globalization pro- motes diverse cultural identities in adolescence and emerging adulthood is Berry’s (1997) model of adaptation to immigration. In presenting his model, Berry raised the question, “What happens to individuals, who have developed in one cultural context, when they attempt to live in a new cultural context?” (p. 6). Because our purposes here pertain to globalization rather than immigration, we could rephrase the question as, “What happens in the identity development of adolescents and emerging adults when they are presented with multiple cultural contexts, including their local culture and other cultures they come into contact with via globaliza- tion?”

Berry (1997) presented four possible patterns of acculturation: (1) Assimila- tion, where persons do not wish to maintain their original cultural identity. Instead, they reject it and embrace their new culture as the basis of an entirely new cul- tural identity. (2) Separation, where persons place value on holding on to their original culture, and avoid contact with people in the new culture to which they have immigrated. (3) Integration, where the original cultural identity is combined with elements of the new culture. (4) Marginalization, where persons have little interest in maintaining their original culture, but also reject (or are rejected by) the new culture. Drawing on research on Berry’s four patterns as well as conceptually related research from other traditions, we next extend and reconceptualize these four acculturation patterns in light of globalization.

 

 

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Assimilation

In Berry’s model, people who choose assimilation have no wish to hold onto the culture they left when they immigrated, but embrace wholeheartedly the new culture. They engage actively in what Berry terms “culture shedding,” defined as “the unlearning of aspects of one’s previous repertoire that are no longer appropriate” (1997, p. 13, emphasis in original).

This is not only an immigration pattern, but a possible cultural identity path for young people growing up with globalization. Especially in places where economic and social changes are occurring rapidly, young people may decide in the course of growing up that their local culture has little or nothing to offer them. They see the global culture, not the local culture, as where their future will be. Consequently, as soon as they are able—usually in adolescence or emerging adulthood—they leave behind the ways of their local culture as much as possible for the ways of the global culture.

One example of this pattern can be seen in the lives of young women in China. In her book Factory Girls, Leslie Chang (2008) describes how there has been a massive migration in recent years from rural villages to booming urban industrial centers, led by young women in their late teens and early twenties. When they first arrive in the city, they are often tentative and reserved. They work in a miserable factory job for long hours and little pay. They send a substantial part of their pay home to their family in the village. Their limited social life is spent with other girls whom they already know from the village or with others who are from their region.

Gradually, however, they may gain more confidence and begin to learn and adopt the ways of the city. In effect, they engage in culture shedding at a rapid rate, and embrace instead the values of the global culture as presented to them in city life: individualism, consumerism, and self-development. They learn that there is a wide range of jobs available, and they switch jobs frequently for better pay, better working conditions, and greater opportunity to learn and advance themselves. They begin to send less of their income back home and spend more of it on themselves, for example on clothes, make-up, technological products such as cell phones, and a nicer place to live. Many seek out additional education and training—including training in how to speak English—so that they can compete for better jobs with not only Chinese but also international companies. They undergo a dramatic change in values because they learn that, in the global culture, values of assertiveness, self-confidence, and initiative are rewarded, not the traditional Chinese values of humility, self-sacrifice, and self-denial. The lives and identities of these young Chinese women, then, in many ways fit with a pattern of assimilation to global values even as they also experience the competing demands of the patriarchal family and socialist state (Ngai, 2005) (for a related example pertaining to call centers in India, see Aneesh, 2012).

 

 

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Separation

In Berry’s model, the separation response entails maintaining allegiance to the original local culture and avoiding contact with the new culture to which the person has immigrated. This response would be most common among people for whom immigration had been involuntary, such as refugees from war or famine, or family members who were required to go along when the head of the family immigrated. Reframed for globalization, it would apply to people whose local culture is being impacted by globalization but who prefer the local culture to the global culture and wish to keep the global culture at bay (Morris, Mok, & Mor, 2011; Shimpi & Zirkel, 2012). Thus some have argued that cultural separation or resistance is reflected in the cultural identities of individuals identifying with such diverse groups or movements as religious fundamentalism, nationalism, hip-hop culture, and youth gangs (Hagedorn, 2005).

One interesting example of a separation response to globalization comes from the islands known as Samoa, in the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand. Samoa be- came known to many Americans early in the 20th century when the anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote a book about Samoan adolescence, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), that was widely read in the United States (and, in fact, all over the world). Many people were fascinated by the stark contrast between adolescence in Samoa and adolescence in the West.

One of the ways in which Samoa differed from the West was in having a ritual to mark the beginning of adolescence. The traditional rite of passage into adolescence involved an elaborate process of tattooing sometime between ages 14 and 16 (Côté, 1994). The tattoos were made in elaborate geometric patterns and extended from the waist to the knees. Having the tattoos put on was painful, especially for males, whose tattoos were more elaborate than those applied to females and usually took 2–3 months to complete, whereas the tattoos for females took 5–6 days. But the young men experienced it together and took satisfaction in sharing the ordeal of it and in supporting one another. In spite of the pain, few young men or young women declined to take part in it because being tattooed was considered essential to sexual attractiveness and to acceptance as a legitimate candidate for full adult status.

This tattooing ritual has been profoundly affected by the globalization of adolescence. In the past 100 years, Samoan culture has changed a great deal (Côté, 1994; McDade & Worthman, 2004). Christian missionaries arrived and sought to stamp out a variety of native practices they considered immoral, including the ritual of tattooing. More recently, the rise of secondary education and the widening of economic opportunities for Samoans who immigrated to nearby New Zealand undermined the traditional local economy and caused the tattooing ritual to be viewed as irrelevant or even shamefully “primitive” by some Samoans. By now,

 

 

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most Samoans have abandoned their cooperative, traditional ways in favor of participation in the wage labor of the global economy.

Recently, however, tattooing for young men has undergone a revival. Cur- rently, the majority of young men get tattoos in their teens to demonstrate their pride in the traditional ways of their culture as part of an explicit attempt to re- sist the total absorption of their indigenous culture into the global culture (Côté, 1994). The tattooing ritual is more than skin deep; it is a behavior representing their belief in the value of Samoan culture and their desire to retain a Samoan cul- tural identity. Although many young Samoans immigrate to New Zealand or other places seeking the opportunities available in the global economy, those who stay often adopt a separation response to globalization and represent their resistance to globalization through the traditional tattooing ritual.

Integration

In the integration response, immigrants maintain their identification with their culture of origin even as they also seek to adapt to the ways of their new culture. This response has also been termed bicultural, in the literature on ethnic identity (e.g., Phinney, 1990). Applying the concepts of integration and biculturalism more broadly, they may pertain to anybody who has been exposed to and has internalized two cultures (Benet-Martinez & Haritos, 2005; Nguyen & Benet- Martinez, 2010, 2010). Biculturalism may thus be relevant, for example, to ethnic minorities, immigrants, refugees, sojourners, and mixed-ethnic individuals (Berry, 2003; Chen, Benet-Martinez, & Bond, 2008; Padilla, 2006; Rockstuhl, Seiler, Ang, Dyne, & Annen, 2011).

Applied to globalization, the integration response means that, in addition to their local identity, young people develop a global identity that gives them a sense of belonging to a worldwide culture and includes an awareness of the events, behaviors, styles, and information that are part of the global culture. Their global identity allows them to communicate with people from diverse places when they travel from home, when others travel to where they live, and when they communicate with people in other places via media technology (such as Facebook). Television is crucial in the process of developing a global identity, as it provides exposure to people, events, and information from all over the world. However, for future generations of children and adolescents, the Internet is likely to be even more important, because it allows direct communication with other people worldwide (such as in e-mail “chat rooms” or interactive computer games) and provides direct access to information about every part of the world.

Alongside their global identity, people continue to develop a local identity as well, based on the local circumstances, local environment, local traditions, and local language of the place where they grew up. This is the identity they are likely to

 

 

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use most in their daily interactions with family, friends, and community members. For example, India has a growing, vigorous high-tech economic sector, led largely by young people. However, even the better-educated young people, who have become full-fledged members of the global economy, still tend to prefer to have an arranged marriage, in accordance with Indian tradition (Verma & Saraswathi, 2002). They also generally expect to care for their parents in old age, again in accord with Indian tradition. Thus, they have one identity for participating in the global economy and succeeding in the fast-paced world of high technology, and another identity, rooted in Indian tradition, that they maintain with respect to their families.

Although developing a bicultural identity means that a local identity is re- tained alongside a global identity, there is no doubt that local cultures everywhere are being modified by globalization, specifically by the introduction of global media, free market economics, democratic institutions, increased length of formal schooling, and delayed entry into marriage and parenthood. These changes greatly alter traditional cultural practices and beliefs. In fact, individuals who integrate two or more cultures into their identities are taking part in an active process of constructing and co-constructing their social milieu in a multicultural world (Chao & Hong, 2007; Chiu & Hong, 2007). Such changes in effect may lead less to a bicultural identity than to a hybrid identity, combining local culture and elements of the global culture in ways that lead to entirely new concepts and practices (Hermans, 2012; Hermans & Dimaggio, 2007; Hermans & Kempen, 1998).

As research on identity integration and hybridity in the face of globalization picks up speed, it will be useful to draw on findings coming out of the literature on biculturalism. This might include attention to how cultures can be integrated in different ways, such as blending cultures as compared to alternating between them (e.g., LaFramboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993; Phinney & Devich-Navarro, 1997). It also might include attention to different psychological “components” (e.g., Benet-Martinez & Haritatos, 2005; Miramontez, Benet-Martinez, & Nguyen, 2008) related to integration, such as behavioral as compared to affective ones.

Marginalization

Immigrants who experience marginalization, according to Berry, are those who feel at home neither in their culture of origin nor in the culture to which they have immigrated. Having left their culture of origin, they no longer feel connected to it. They may feel that their new culture is simply too different from their culture of origin for them to adapt it, or they may feel that their new culture rejects them, perhaps due to their physical appearance, socioeconomic status, or religion. Marginalization is most likely when there is a large degree of what Berry calls cultural distance, meaning dissimilarity between the culture of origin and the new culture.

 

 

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With regard to globalization, marginalization may take place among people whose local culture is being rapidly altered by globalization. They may see their local culture changing beyond recognition, so that they no longer feel connected to it, but at the same time they may feel that the global culture has no place for them. Cultural distance applies here, too; the greater the cultural distance between the local culture and the global culture, the more likely the response of marginalization.

A vivid example of marginalization can be found in Nepal. Few places in the world have been more remote and more isolated from the West historically than Nepal. Not only is Nepal thousands of miles from the nearest Western country, but until 1951 the government made a special effort to isolate its citizens, ban- ning all communications (travel, trade, books, movies, etc.) between Nepal and “the outside.” Since then, Nepal, and especially its largest city of Kathmandu, has undergone a rapid transition into the world of global trade, Western tourism, and electronic mass media. Ethnographic research provides a vivid look at how adolescents and emerging adults in Kathmandu are responding to globalization (Liechty, 1995). Media represent the driving force of globalization in Nepal. A variety of imported media are highly popular with young people in Kathmandu. Movies and videos from both India and the United States find a broad audience of young people. American and Indian television shows are also popular, and televi- sions are a standard feature within middle-class homes. There is an enthusiastic audience among the young for Western music, including rock, heavy metal, and rap. Sometimes young people combine local culture with imported Western styles. For example, a local rock band has recorded an original Nepali-language album in the style of the Beatles. However, older traditions such as Nepali folk songs are rejected by many urban young people.

Nepalese people use the terms teen and teenager in English, even when speaking Nepali, to refer to young people who are oriented toward Western tastes, especially Western media. Not all Nepalese young people are “teenagers,” even if they are in their teen years—the term is not an age category but a social category that refers to young people who are pursuing a Western identity and style based on what they have learned through media. To many young people in Kathmandu, being a “teenager” is something they covet and strive for. They associate it with leisure, affluence, and expanded opportunities. However, many adults use teenager with less favorable connotations to refer to young people who are disobedient, antisocial, and potentially violent. Their use of the term in this way reflects their view that Western media have had corrupting effects on many of their young people.

Even to “teenagers” themselves, the availability of Western media is a mixed blessing. They enjoy it and it provides them with information about the wider world beyond the borders of Nepal. Many of them use media to help them make sense of their own lives, growing up as they are in a rapidly changing society,

 

 

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and as material for imagining a broad range of possible selves. However, the cultural distance between Nepal and the global culture is vast. Western media tend to disconnect Nepalese adolescents and emerging adults from their own culture and from their cultural traditions, leaving many of them confused and alienated. The media ideals of Western life raise their expectations for their own lives to unattainable levels, and these ideals eventually collide with the incompatibility between their expectations and their real lives. Ultimately, many of them feel marginalized: alienated from their local culture, but not truly part of the global culture. In the moving words of 21-year-old Ramesh (Liechty, 1995, p. 187):

You know, now I know sooooo much [from films, books, and magazines about the West]. Being a frog in a pond isn’t a bad life, but being a frog in an ocean is like hell. Look at this. Out here in Kathmandu there is nothing. We have nothing.

Scholars working in a variety of other cultures have also documented the highly problematic experiences of youth who become economically marginalized in a global economy, for example working in low-paying factories (Green, 2008), not having access to lucrative employment or training (Norasakkunkit & Uchida, 2011), or earning income from sex work (Cole, 2005), while simultaneously hopelessly aspiring to wealth and lifestyles held forth by globalization. Another example comes from Diaz, Schneider, and Pwogwam Santé Mantal (2012) who document how youth in rural Haiti do not have access to media or other entertain- ment and how this lack of access heightens the stress of poverty.

New Opportunities and Risks

Next we turn to a discussion of opportunities and risks that adolescents and emerging adults face when plural developmental pathways emerge in the context of navigating local and global cultures. Specifically, we will discuss cultural identity confusion, youth civic involvement, and greater gender equality.

Cultural Identity Confusion

The effects of globalization on identity development have often been assumed to be negative. Various theorists and observers have described identity in mod- ern times as “de-cultured” (Giddens, 2000), “deterritorialized” (Kearney, 1995; Tomlinson, 1999), “delocalized” (Thompson, 1995), and “unrooted” (Friedman, 2000). In fact, however, empirical investigations of psychological responses to globalization generally find that most people adapt remarkably well to changes in their own culture or to the experience of migrating to a different cultural con- text, and that young people adapt more successfully than adults do (Berry, 1997). Nevertheless, there is also evidence that globalization does sometimes have ad- verse consequences for identity development (Chiu, Gries, Torelli, & Cheung,

 

 

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2011). What we will term cultural identity confusion may be a particular kind of identity confusion that occurs as a result of globalization.

Several studies have concluded that adolescent girls in developing countries have been influenced by Western media to have a negative body image. Assessing themselves by the Western standard represented by models in advertisements and by actors in TV and films, they conclude that their local norms of physical at- tractiveness are obsolete and seek to emulate the Western image they admire. For example, Bhugra, Mastrogianni, Maharajh, and Harvey (2003) interviewed ado- lescent girls in the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Barbados and reported that 68% of the girls were extremely fearful of becoming fat. Based on the interviews, Bhugra and colleagues concluded that the girls’ fat-fear was motivated by their aspiration of Western ideals of slimness.

Another problematic effect of globalization on identity development is that it sometimes leads to estrangement between adolescents and their parents. Because young people tend to adapt to the cultural changes wrought by globalization more readily than their parents do, a gulf sometimes develops between the identity of the parents, rooted in cultural traditions, and the identities of their adolescent children, more oriented to the global norms and values they see as representing the future (Nsamenang, 2011). For example, Ndura (2006) describes the ways that increasing education divides the generations in the African nation of Burundi. Over half the adults in Burundi are illiterate, but most of their children now at- tend school. Although education is valuable in preparing them for their economic future in a globalized world, it also sometimes alienates them from their culture of origin. Adolescents who attend school may refuse to help their parents and siblings plow the family farm. Those who attend boarding schools in the cities may develop tastes for Western foods and consumer goods, and feel a sense of shame over their humble origins. In short, educated young people often develop an identity that separates them from their families and from their older compa- triots, as they become “strangers in their own land and foreigners to their own cause” (p. 95).

However, Phinney, Berry, Sam, and Vedder (2006) conclude that research on immigrant youth in various parts of the world indicates that it is possible to develop an identity that is flexible enough to take different forms in different contexts, so that, for example, educational success may be achieved without resulting in alienation and estrangement. At school, the integration or assimilation modes of identity may be most adaptable, to succeed in the educational system devised by the majority culture. At the same time, separation could be the mode of identity adopted in family life, so that the language, food, customs, and values of the culture of origin can be maintained. Mixing and matching aspects of cultural identity to the appropriate context is challenging. Nevertheless, many adolescents and emerging adults manage to achieve it—sometimes by developing different acculturation approaches across different contexts.

 

 

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The risks of cultural identity confusion and pathology may be most pro- nounced where there is a substantial gap between the cultures to which an ado- lescent or emerging adult is exposed. Berry (1997) has observed that the greater the “cultural distance” in beliefs and behaviors between cultures, the greater the psychological and social problems in immigrants. In other words, some cultural differences are hard to mix and match. Also, the extent to which one is voluntarily motivated to adopt the custom complexes of a new culture and to shed some from one’s traditional culture appears to be important. Researchers have noted this in comparisons of immigrants and refugees, where immigrants show fewer accultur- ation problems (Berry, 1997). In sum, lack of volition and exposure to cultures that are highly divergent in their customs and statuses raise the likelihood that cultural identity confusion will arise and develop into psychological and social problems.

Civic Involvement

As observed above, one of the characteristics of adolescents and emerging adults that put them at the forefront of globalization is their openness to new beliefs and behaviors. Such openness poses risks, both in the individual and social realms. At the individual level, as just discussed, openness may lead to cultural identity confusion where a person is unable to make a commitment to specific goals, beliefs, and customs. At the social or civic level, some have also argued that too much openness to diverse value systems leads to lack of commitment to and engagement with any society (Huntington, 2004). The view is that navigating plural value systems and cultural affiliations results in divided loyalties.

While these psychological and civic concerns cannot be dismissed. Research on youth programs, globalization, and immigrants indicate that the positive sides of openness toward the values of others also should not be disregarded (Berry, 1997; Jensen, 2008b, 2011a; Larson, Jensen, Kang, Griffith, & Rompala, 2011; Phinney & Devich-Navarro, 1997). For example, Verma and Maria (2006) stressed how youth are a societal resource whose openness to diverse values, including spiritual ones, has enormous positive potential. Larson and his colleagues (e.g., 2011) observed that interactions with peers in youth programs who hold diverse values often serve as a catalyst for a broadening of individual knowledge and beliefs, as well as newfound empathy toward the circumstances of others. Related, research with immigrant adolescents has found that their involvement in community and civic activities often rests on motives tied to their culture of origin, motives prevalent in the receiving culture, and “bridging” motives aimed at bringing the two cultures into contact (Jensen, 2008b; Jensen & Flanagan, 2008). In other words, openness to peoples of other cultures in the civic arena has positive potential. While some youth may indeed come to experience divided loyalties, many others

 

 

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find fruitful ways of living with and acting upon what we here will term “multiplied loyalties.”

Not only may openness toward multiple cultures motivate civic participation, but when such openness is combined with worldwide media access new commu- nity and civic movements may arise. In fact, alternative social organizations and ways that communication occur within those organizations may even be trans- forming some meanings and roles of the state. At the global level, it seems that adolescents and emerging adults are creating virtual collectivities. They use media, such as Facebook, for new kinds of friendship groups.

Furthermore, as political events in the Middle East in much of 2011 have shown, youth also use diverse social media for collective information-sharing, analysis, and action. Social media tools played major roles in the youth-led po- litical protests in Egypt, Tunesia, Bahrain, and other Middle Eastern countries. Youth used the media to share reports about police actions and abuse; they shared guidebooks for political action; and perhaps most importantly they built online communities for mobilization.

Again, collective analysis and action by youth is not invariably positive. The world’s history is replete with examples of adolescents and emerging adults— typically male—engaging in aggressive collective action (sometimes at their own initiative and often guided by adults). However, the constructive insights and concrete results of adolescents and emerging adults thinking and acting collectively through exposure to diverse cultures also hold great promise.

There seem to be ways in which globalization may provide new kinds of civic opportunities for youth (see also Christens & Collura, 2012; Swim & Berger, 2012). Clearly, more research is needed in this area. But the extent to which civic involvement among adolescents and emerging adults is tied to globalization constitutes an innovative area of research. Such research might focus on characteristics of globalization such as use of media (e.g., the Inter- net), mobility (e.g., migration), values (e.g., democracy and youth agency), and psychological consequences (e.g., bicultural and hybrid identities). Understand- ing the links between characteristics of globalization and youth civic involve- ment is key to knowing how they are mutually transforming each other (Jensen, 2010).

Greater Gender Equality

Finally, a key area of opportunity for young people that is influenced by global- ization concerns gender equality. Traditionally in many cultures around the world, girls and women have been subordinate to boys and men and have faced discrim- ination and inequality in many areas of life. Although inequality is still prevalent, today there is a strong global trend toward greater gender equality. Perhaps this

 

 

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Table 1. Rates of Participation in Tertiary Education by Gender, Selected Countries

Country Females Males

Algeria 24 17 Brazil 27 21 Dominican 41 25

Republic El Salvador 21 17 Iran 25 23 Philippines 31 25 Saudi Arabia 34 23 South Africa 17 14 Thailand 45 41

Source: UNdata (2010). Countries where males are higher: Japan, Turkey, and Vietnam.

trend is most evident in the area of education. Until recent decades, countries all over the world had customs and policies that favored boys’ education over girls’, for example by discouraging or forbidding girls from obtaining education beyond primary school and by barring young women from entry to most colleges and universities (Mensch, Bruce, & Greene, 1998). Today, however, it is remarkable that in the majority of countries in the world young women exceed young men in educational attainment at the tertiary level (UNdata, 2010). This is true not just in Western countries, although the gap in favor of women is widest there, with young women often exceeding young men in tertiary education participation by 10–20 percentage points. As Table 1 shows, it is often true in developing countries as well, including in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East, where gender discrimination has often been strongest (United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], 2010).

There are two ways in which the trend toward greater gender equality may be in part a consequence of globalization. First, in the global economy education is increasingly rewarded (Ridley, 2010). The global economy is based mainly on information, technology, and services, and as this economy spreads around the world it promotes social and cultural change. Families that previously may have viewed it as in their economic interest to keep girls at home working in the fields instead of sending them to school may now find it is more advantageous to educate them so that they can take advantage of opportunities to participate in the global economy. For example, among the Chinese “factory girls” mentioned earlier, when they migrate from their villages to the booming industrial cities, the more education they have, the more they are paid and the more opportunities they have (Chang, 2008). They send a substantial portion of the money they make home

 

 

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to their families in the villages, relieving their parents’ poverty and providing more opportunities for their siblings.

The second way globalization promotes gender equality is through interna- tional pressure on countries with customs and policies promoting discrimination. For example, the United Nations publishes a yearly Gender Inequality Index (GII) that combines statistics on educational attainment, women’s economic and polit- ical participation, and female-specific health issues (such as maternal mortality). The GII is then used by the United Nations and other organizations to lobby coun- tries to improve their policies related to girls and women. The explicit purpose of the GII is to make countries aware of international pressure to relieve gender discrimination and promote greater equality. As the most recent United Nations Human Development Report states, “Measures of the disadvantages for women raise awareness of problems, permit monitoring of progress towards gender equity objectives and keep governments accountable (UNDP, 2010, p. 89).

Conclusion: A New Global Research Agenda

“Globalization fundamentally transforms the relationship between the places we inhabit and our cultural practices, experiences, and identities” (Tomlinson, 1999, p. 106, emphasis in original). As we have discussed here, the transformations of globalization are quite evident in the complexity and diversity of cultural identity developments in adolescents and emerging adults. Moreover, the last three decades or so likely represent only the beginnings of globalization. For example, China and India each have more than a billion people, of which only a minority have fully entered the global economy and culture. The future, then, is likely to hold quite dramatic changes for even larger groups of adolescents and emerging adults on a worldwide scale. It is important to note, however, that many of the changes we have discussed are linked to exposure to media and to economic opportunities. As we have also discussed here, with these transformations come both new risks and opportunities for youth.

Likewise, new risks and opportunities present themselves to youth re- searchers. There is a need for psychological theory and research to move beyond Western—often American—boundaries where it is carried out with, for, and by Westerners and Americans (Gelfand, Lyons, & Lun, 2011). Staying in step with a rapidly changing, global world provides youth researchers with an opportunity to bridge cultural and developmental approaches to human psychology (Jensen, 2011b, 2012). In other words, we need to heed the call of cultural psychology to study different peoples around the world and to recognize that culture profoundly impacts how we think, feel, and act. At the same time, we also take seriously the developmental science perspective that humans share common life tasks such as developing a cultural identity.

 

 

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LENE ARNETT JENSEN is Associate Professor of Psychology at Clark Univer- sity, USA. Dr. Jensen aims through her scholarship and professional activities to change the discipline of psychology toward understanding human development both in terms of what is universal and what is cultural. One line of Dr. Jensen’s research addresses cultural identity development in the contexts of migration and global change. This work includes a focus on immigrants’ civic engagement. A second line of research is in the area of moral development, addressing how moral reasoning and behavior are culturally and developmentally situated. Dr. Jensen’s publications include New Horizons in Developmental Theory and Research (2005, with R. W. Larson), Immigrant Civic Engagement: New Translations (2008, with C. A. Flanagan), and Bridging Cultural and Developmental Psychology: New Syn- theses for Theory, Research and Policy (2012, Oxford University Press). Dr. Jensen is Editor-in-Chief of New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development. She was the Conference Chair of the 2012 Biennial Conference of the Society for Research on Adolescence.

 

 

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JEFFREY JENSEN ARNETT, PhD, is Research Professor of Psychology at Clark University, USA. He coined the term “emerging adulthood” (ages 18–29), and has conducted research on this developmental phase in numerous countries. His books include Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties (2004, Oxford University Press). Dr. Arnett is also Editor-in-Chief of the two-volume International Encyclopedia of Adolescence (2007, Routledge), and he has published several papers on the psychology of globalization in premier psychology journals.

 

 

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