Supporting Identity Development in Cross-Cultural Children and Young People: Resources, Vulnerability, Creativity
Children and young people with cross-cultural backgrounds are significantly influenced by multiple cultures during their upbringing. They face the ambivalence and challenges of regularly dealing with multiple cultural frames of reference, norms and expectations, and often experience particular identity challenges. One might say that much of the ambivalence of modern intercultural societies may show up as internalized ambivalence in these “children of migration”.
This article explores cross-cultural identity development. The aim is to further our understanding of how the identities of cross-cultural children and young people can be supported and their resources activated. This can both strengthen their resilience and well- being, and be of great value to society at large. Psychosocial/cultural interventions and creative projects in cross-cultural settings are potential arenas for this type of cultural health promotion. One example is the multicultural music project Fargespill (‘Kaleidoscope’).
In a case study of Kaleidoscope, I describe and discuss how these participatory creative activities work, and ask how they may foster the development of constructive cross-cultural identities. Participant observation was conducted in Kaleidoscope throughout a year. In the light of theoretical perspectives from social and cultural psychology, the article analyzes identity issues and possibilities within this empirical context.
Supporting cross-cultural identity development in a constructive manner is here operationalized as allowing, increasing and acknowledging identity complexity. The findings are categorized under the headings of resources, vulnerability and creativity. The project leaders make an effort to establish trust and a safe, supportive space. They apply a participatory method, in which the participants are seen as resources and their strengths and contributions are emphasized. In some situations, the vulnerability that may be caused by potentially being stereotyped is apparent, and identity definitions and complexities need to be negotiated. There are explicit expectations concerning creativity in the Kaleidoscope process, and the crossing of different cultural expressions, old and sometimes new, leads to the final creative product of the performance.
To summarize, identity complexity is given space to play out, relating to both origins and current participation in culture in construction here in Norwegian society. Thus, at its best, Kaleidoscope sets the stage for a flexible and playful performance of identity. This may be one path towards appreciated and integrated intercultural identities.