Social networking and the school adjustment of Karen refugee youth from Burma: determining the effects of ethnic identity, bonding social capital, and Facebook use

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lucy D. Lewis (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Kelly Wester

Abstract: In 2011 alone, over 56,000 refugees were admitted to the United States and a third of these individuals were under the age of 18 (Martin & Yankay, 2012). Researchers have found that the social capital developed through close and confiding relationships is instrumental in the academic outcomes of refugee youth (Kia-Keating & Ellis, 2007; Kovacev & Shute, 2004) and adolescents from diverse ethnic backgrounds use social capital as a resource in identity construction (Holland, Reynolds, & Weller, 2007). Social networking sites (SNS) are now used by adolescents to communicate a sense of belongingness related to their ethnic group (Grasmuck, Martin, & Zhao, 2009) and in studies with college students from the United States have been linked to the establishment of social capital (Ellison et al., 2007; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2011). The purpose of the current study was to explore the participants' social network composition on Facebook based on whether their networks were primarily composed of peers with the same ethnic identity (same-ethnic peers) or from different ethnic backgrounds (cross-ethnic peers). Specifically, the researcher aimed to investigate whether Facebook was primarily used to facilitate the development of bonding social capital with peers with the same ethnic identity. It also was designed to explore the relationship between Facebook use, ethnic identity, bonding social capital, and school adjustment in the sample of 40 Karen newcomer refugee adolescents living in the United States. Overall, the researcher found that newcomer refugee Karen students are utilizing Facebook to develop friendships with individuals that share the same ethnicity and with peers from different ethnicities. There was a significant relationship between bonding social capital and school adjustment; however, there were not differences in bonding social capital based on the composition of participants' peer networks. The final model demonstrated that amount of Facebook use was a significant predictor of school adjustment scores and that bonding social capital mediates this relationship. It appears that higher levels of bonding social capital are predictive of higher levels of school adjustment, and Facebook usage may actually decrease bonding social capital in these students. Important implications exist for school counselors working with newcomer refugee students. Given the importance of bonding social capital on school adjustment, school counselors should consider ways to foster peer relationships for newcomer refugee students. Results from the current study suggest that higher amounts of Facebook use may actually be preventing newcomer refugee students from developing close peer relationships, underscoring the potential importance of school counselors fostering relationship building within the school environment.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Adolescent, Ethnic identity, Facebook, Refugee, School adjustment, Social capital
Social networks $x Sociological aspects
Karen (Southeast Asian people) $x Ethnic identity
Refugees $z Burma
Student adjustment $x Social aspects $z United States

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