Perceived discrimination, language proficiencies, and adaptation: Comparisons between refugee and non-refugee immigrant youth in Australia

Zachary E. Buchanan, Hisham M. Abu-Rayya, Emiko Kashima, Susan J. Paxton, David L. Sam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study was designed to examine the adaptation differences between refugee and non-refugee immigrant youth in Australia. The study also investigated the roles that perceived discrimination and language proficiency play in the adaptation of the two groups. Participants in this study were 106 refugee youth (Mage = 16.82, SD = 1.91) and 223 non-refugee immigrant youth (Mage = 15.38, SD = 1.63) who completed self-report questionnaires. The study revealed that refugee youth experienced more maladjustment compared to non-refugee immigrant youth, as evinced by significantly lower psychological adaptation and poorer socio-cultural adaptation. Study results demonstrated that both refugee and non-refugee immigrant youth with higher levels of perceived discrimination tended to experience more maladaptation. Further, ethnic language proficiency seems to serve both refugee and non-refugee immigrants’ socio-cultural adaptation. Proficiency in English, on the other hand, seems to benefit refugees’ psychological and socio-cultural adaptation, but serves non-refugee immigrants’ psychological adaptation only. The study thus concludes that the adaptation of refugee and non-refugee immigrant youth differs, despite some similarities. Research concerned with immigration and adaptation should not theorise the two groups to be uniform, and any intervention program aiming to ease the adaptation of immigrant youth should take into consideration the migrant group status (refugee vs. non-refugee).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-112
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a post-graduate research grant awarded to the first author by La Trobe University, Australia .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Adaptation
  • Language proficiency
  • Perceived discrimination
  • Perceived discrimination
  • Refugee

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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