Understanding the social integration of adolescents of foreign origin : Longitudinal investigations of inter-origin friendship formation

Sammanfattning: The present dissertation aims to understand some of the opportunities for, and influences on, the social integration of adolescents of foreign origin in Sweden. Informed by previous research, the dissertation suggests that successful social integration involves friendship formation between peers of similar origins (intra-origin friendship formation) as well as friendship formation between peers of different origins (inter-origin friendship formation). Social integration can be difficult to achieve in practice because most individuals tend to be homophilic and form intra-origin friendships rather than inter-origin friendships.Four studies based on longitudinal data are presented in the dissertation. The first study seeks to widen the understanding of refugee girls’ friendship formation through a qualitative analysis of interviews with refugee girls. The second study estimates stochastic actor-oriented models to investigate the friendship formation of adolescents with supportive and/or controlling parent-child relationships. The third article presents cross-lagged panel models for the reciprocal longitudinal associations between friendship formation and two forms of leisure: visits to youth centers and participation in structured leisure activities. Finally, the fourth study uses stochastic actor-oriented models to analyze with whom adolescents form friendships when they are involved in different forms of digital leisure, including online communication, video watching, and digital gaming.The refugee girls in the qualitative study stated that they formed close friendships with family members, such as cousins and siblings, rather than with peers of native origin because they experienced the latter as too dissimilar from themselves. The adolescents in the first quantitative study formed relatively more inter-origin friendships when their parents were supportive and fewer inter-origin friendships when their parents were controlling. According to the third study, visits to youth centers were associated with a larger number of intra-origin friendships among adolescents of foreign origin, while participation in structured leisure activities, such as sports and cultural projects, was related to more friendship formation regardless of origin. The fourth study suggested that native adolescents who were involved in digital gaming formed fewer friendships with native peers and had fewer friends outside of the school class, and foreign adolescents who communicated more online formed fewer friendships with native classmates but more friendships outside of the school class.All four studies indicate that the social integration of adolescents of foreign origin is not an automatic process that invariably happens when adolescents of different origins are mixed in the same location. When adolescents organize their own social lives away from the involvement of adults, they seem to remain or become more homophilic and form more friendships with peers of their own origin. By contrast, native and foreign adolescents tend to form more inter-origin friendships when adults provide them with support and structured social activities. In other words, the social integration of foreign adolescents seems to require supportive and committed adults, who contribute to facilitating inter-origin friendship formation.