Version classiqueVersion mobile

eGirls, eCitizens

Jane Bailey
Valerie Steeves

Part II: Living in a Gendered Gaze

Chapter IV. The Internet and Friendship Seeking: Exploring the Role of Online Communication in Young, Recently Immigrated Women’s Social Lives

Assumpta Ndengeyingoma

Texte intégral


  • 1 Amrit Dhariwal, Jennifer Connolly, Marinella Paciello & Gian Vittorio Caprara, “Adolescent Peer Re (...)

1Friendship seeking and relationship seeking are part of the developmental tasks that accompany adolescence. Several studies show the importance of these relationships for social and personal development.1 The continuity of these relationships can be complex: friendships, dyads, or groups can develop from childhood, some of which can later become confidant relationships. Within the context of immigration, youth can become physically separated from their once-close friends. This can prevent friendship relationships from developing into confidant relationships, as these relationships are typically consolidated by physical presence.

2The sociocultural contexts in schools in an immigrant child’s host country offer the opportunity to develop friendships and romantic relationships. But racism, discrimination, prejudice, and stigmatization can also emerge in school environments. For example, native-born Canadians, immigrants from the same country as immigrant youth, or immigrants from different cultures and ethnicities can make intimidating comments aimed at immigrant youth regarding their ways of dressing, behaving, or speaking. This can occur face-to-face and also through online communication. All of these factors can constrain the ability of immigrant youth to make friends.

  • 2 Mehra Bharat, Cecelia Merkel & Ann Peterson Bishop, “The Internet for Empowerment of Minority and (...)

3A trend has been observed where young immigrant women tend to seek friendships within online environments.2 The aim of this chapter is to identify the factors associated with the use of the internet in friendship-seeking from the point of view of six teenage girls who immigrated to Canada’s capital region. For the purposes of this paper, the “internet” refers to online social spaces used for communicative purposes, including social networking sites.


  • 3 Government of Canada, “Canada — Permanent residents by category, 2009–2013,” < preliminary/01.asp>.
  • 4 Farah Ahmad, Angela Shik, Reena Vanza, Angela Cheung, Usha George & Donna E. Stewart, “Popular Hea (...)

4Immigration is a key issue in modern societies. In the last five years, Canada has welcomed between 248,748 and 280,688 immigrants per year.3 The reasons behind these immigration journeys are diverse. Some people migrate for economic reasons, others as part of government- managed family reunification programs, while others are refugees or migrate to join family members who have already established themselves in the new country. The immigration experience is often accompanied by considerable material, familial, and cultural losses for the immigrant, in addition to the stress of being confronted with new physical and social realities.4 Newly immigrated people must rebuild their social networks to obtain the social support they need, but they may be faced with social exclusion in relation to their race, ethnicity, language, religion, or label as an immigrant. However, it should be noted that the immigration experience can have different impacts upon different people, depending on their age and social location.

  • 5 Brett Laursen, David Wilder, Peter Noack & Vickie Williams, “Adolescent Perceptions of Reciprocity (...)
  • 6 Ibid. at 470.
  • 7 John W. Berry, Jean S. Phinney, David L. Sam & Paul Vedder, “Immigrant Youth: Acculturation, Ident (...)
  • 8 Shaibu Ahmed Gariba, Race, Ethnicity, Immigration and Jobs: Labour Market Access Among Ghanaian an (...)
  • 9 Linda P. Juang & Alvin A. Alvarez, “Discrimination and Adjustment Among Chinese American Adolescen (...)
  • 10 Ibid. at 5.

5As researchers such as Laursen, Wilder, Noack, and Williams point out,5 a sense of belonging to a group that is separate from their parents is a priority for adolescents, allowing them to develop their own value systems, to define themselves, to identify goals, and to mature into adults. For youth between 12 and 18 years of age, interaction with peers is an important element contributing to social and cultural development.6 Studies show that peer affiliation and peer acceptance present certain challenges for recently immigrated youth. These challenges can be related to relationships with peers or within the family dynamic. With regard to peer affiliation, the cultural diversity of a host country like Canada offers recently immigrated youth the opportunity to develop friendships with peers from all backgrounds. But Berry, Phinney, Sam, and Vedder also report that immigrant youth can face discrimination in a variety of host countries, including Canada.7 Gariba conducted focus group interviews and survey questionnaires with Ghanaian and Somali youth residing in Toronto regarding their perceptions of barriers to labour market access. Participants reported a number of incidents in which they experienced discrimination.8 Perceived discrimination also affected participants’ feelings of community belonging, as well as feelings of belonging to society in general. Through surveys administered to Chinese American adolescents, Juang and Alvarez report that participants’ perceived discrimination can lead to a variety of physical, social, and psychological consequences, including feelings of solitude, anxiety, and somatization.9 Their analysis concluded that negative family interactions exacerbated the effects of perceived discrimination, while positive interactions buffered the effects of greater perceived discrimination.10

  • 11 Annie J. Ahn, Bryan S. K. Kim & Yong S. Park, “Asian Cultural Values Gap, Cognitive Flexibility, C (...)
  • 12 Kimberly A. Updegraff, Melissa Y. Delgado & Lorey A. Wheeler, “Exploring Mothers’ and Fathers’ Rel (...)
  • 13 Marwan Dwairy & Mustafa Achoui, “Parental Control: A Second Cross-Cultural Research on Parenting a (...)

6As noted, in addition to peer affiliation, family dynamics can also pose a challenge to friendship formation for newly immigrated youth, who can experience difficulty seeking out friendships due to family-related constraints. For example, Ahn, Kim, and Park’s research with Korean American youth (90 percent of whom had parents born in Korea) revealed a child-parent gap in terms of adherence to traditional cultural values, which in turn related to parent/ child conflict (particularly with respect to marriage and dating).11 In Mexican American immigrant families, parental control in relation to friendships and socializing has been found to be accentuated for girls more than for boys.12 This phenomenon can also be found within the general population, a finding that is often more pronounced in Eastern cultures than in Western cultures.13

  • 14 Elias & Lemish, supra note 2 at 547.
  • 15 Ibid.
  • 16 Ibid.; Brendesha M. Tynes, Michael T. Giang & Geneene N. Thompson, “Ethnic Identity, Intergroup Co (...)
  • 17 Sonia Livingstone & Ellen Helsper, “Balancing Opportunities and Risks in Teenagers’ Use of the Int (...)

7Because of these factors, immigrant girls can find it hard to make friends. Searching for friendship online becomes a possible solution to the peer and family-related constraints that recently immigrated youth may face. While it is generally known that adolescents like using technology to communicate, specific challenges may be faced by some recently immigrated youths due to material or societal disadvantages.14 Communication technologies could allow immigrant youth to reach out to their peers while bypassing potential challenges imposed by parental control and the social discrimination they may feel, as internet communication via online social media has unique characteristics such as cultural and linguistic diversity, interactivity, anonymity, and accessibility.15 These potential advantages of online social communication can assist immigrant youth,16 as well as youth in the general population17 in articulating the various social challenges they may face.

8The objective of this article is to identify the factors that lead to the use of the internet as a tool in searching for friends, as told by adolescent female youths using their migratory experiences as a starting point. A better understanding of neighbourhood, sociocultural, and familial barriers could contribute to reflections about the eventual role that people who interact with these youths, such as immigrant welcoming agencies, educators, health care workers, and parents, could play in supporting young women as they seek to establish themselves in Canada.

  • 18 Urie Bronfenbrenner, The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design (Cambridge (...)
  • 19 Assumpta Ndengeyingoma, Francine de Montigny & Jean-Marie Miron, “Development of Personal Identity (...)

9This article revisits data that was previously published in which I conducted semi-structured interviews, self-recordings and followup interviews with twelve refugee youth aged 13 to 18 years old, who had recently immigrated to Canada from five different countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and were living in the city of Gatineau, Quebec. The goals of this study were, first, to identify recently immigrated youths’ perceptions of their migratory experiences and, second, to identify potential factors that could influence the development of their personal identities. This study employed Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Systems Theory as a theoretical framework within which four dimensions of personal development were explored: proximal processes of social interaction; the person in development; the context of the person; and the factor of time.18 In brief, the study concluded that immigrant youths’ abilities to self-criticize, religious beliefs, complicated migratory trajectories, interactions with peers, family dynamics, and intercultural proximity facilitated the development of these youths’ personal identities, although, in some cases, these factors also became restrictive to their development.19

  • 20 Laurence Manesse, “Autour du concept d’expérience chez Benjamin,” Revue Appareil (2011): 7–8, <>.

10Manesse’s comparative concept analysis of experience was retained to operationalize the concept of a migratory experience within the context of this study. This philosophical conceptualization was selected because it regroups several characteristics of an experience. Thus, a migratory experience is operationalized as a mental as well as a physical activity, and is considered to be associated with an individual’s personal signification to their perceptions as they express themselves from their own definition of their reality, lived or observed.20 Unexpectedly, my participants brought up online communication repeatedly, indicating that there may be ways to support immigrant youth through social media and other forms of online community building. This chapter is an initial attempt to lay out my findings in this regard and suggest areas for further research.


Participant Characteristics and Selection

  • 21 Ministère de l’Immigration, de la diversité et de l’Inclusion, “L’immi grat ion permanente au Québ (...)

11This study took place in the Outaouais region, located in the southwest portion of the province of Quebec, which is part of the national capital region of Canada. According to the regionalization of immigration policy published by the Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities of Quebec, the Outaouais region places third in the list of Quebec regions that receive the most refugees who are selected and supported by the government.21 Geographically speaking, this region offers the opportunity for recently immigrated adolescents to interact, whether through work or social or school activities, with youths in the neighbouring province of Ontario, whose principal language is often English. This reality can augment the challenges complicating immigrant youths’ integration into their new cultural environments, as youths can perceive that they must adapt simultaneously to the cultures of both Quebec, which is more French, and Ontario, which is more English.

12The six participants in this study were recruited through Accueil-Parrainage Outaouais (APO), a non-profit organization whose mission is to welcome immigrants and refugees who settle in the Outaouais region. Participants were selected through purposive sampling. Inclusion criteria specified that participants must identify as being teenage refugees who originated from Sub-Saharan Africa; be between the ages of 13 and 18; have lived in Canada for less than five years; be living in the Outaouais region; be able to speak, understand, and read French; and have parents who understand and read French. The diversity in the participants’ regions of origin added to the richness of the data, making it possible to gather different migratory experiences.

13For this specific study, all participants were female. Each had lived in refugee camps for between ten and fourteen years. Half of the participants currently lived with both of their parents, two participants resided with only their mother, and one participant lived with her older brother. Participants had between four and eight siblings. Ethical approval for this study was obtained through the research ethics committees at the Université du Québec en Outaouais and the Université du Québec à Trois Rivières. Informed consent was obtained from all participants and their parents.

Data Collection

  • 22 Michael Huberman & Matthew B. Miles, “Data Management and Analysis Methods,” in Collecting and Int (...)
  • 23 Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln & Michael D. Giardina, “Disciplining Qualitative Research,” In (...)

14This study used phenomenological methodology in order to take into account the natural context of the participants, their expression, and their frame of reference in relation to their experiences. The chosen data collection methods allowed the researcher to return to the participants to validate the meaning that the researcher gave to their experiences. This study used two different methods of data collection: (1) two types of interviews, including semi-structured interviews and semi-structured interviews based on the technique of meaning explanation (see below); and (2) self-recordings. These methods are complementary and can permit the understanding of different representations of a similar phenomenon,22 as well as the comparison of participant perspectives and the triangulation of data.23

15An initial semi-structured interview explored with participants their perceptions of their migratory experiences. In this study, individual face-to-face interviews lasted thirty to sixty minutes. Interviews were conducted in French and were carried out either in the home of the participant or in a research office. Five categories of questions were explored:

  1. General data (e.g., do you work?).
  2. Pre-migratory experiences (e.g., can you think of any experiences in or aspects of your country of origin that have impacted your life? If so, which ones? Do you share these events with anyone among your friends or family?).
  3. Significance of the social context and its role in identity development, including questions about sense of belonging to Canada or Quebec, proximal community belonging, ethnic group belonging and family life (e.g., how do you find your neighbourhood? Can you describe it? Do you participate in activities related to your community of origin?).
  4. Family life (e.g., are there situations where you think that your family members don’t understand you? What do you do to make yourself understood in these situations?).
  5. Feelings of unity and coherence in relation to adolescence, life objectives, personal power, and identity experimentation (e.g., what motivates you in life? Who is your favourite musical artist? Why? Do you use the internet to get to know other people? Are there ways that you learn through your friends when online?).

16Audio self-recordings allowed participants to present and express their points of view and feelings relating to information they considered to be significant. Self-recording was explained to participants during the initial interview, and all participants were presented with the materials required for self-recording. The events could be from their home, school, or work environments. The events could be socially, culturally, academically, or emotionally significant, but they were not instructed that they must report a specific type of event. Rather, they were asked to identify information they considered significant, and to summarize and record these events over a four-day period, including two weekdays and two weekend days. They were asked to note their observations regarding these events, including the different ways in which these events can or could have been managed, and to provide an explanation of the course of action they took in order to deal with these events. As this method does not offer the possibility to engage in a deeper discussion to understand the reasoning behind participants’ expressed emotions or actions, it was followed by a second individual interview.

  • 24 Pierre Vermersch, “Vécus et couches des vécus,” Expliciter 66 (2006): 40–41, <>.
  • 25 Claire Petitmengin, “Describing One’s Subjective Experience in the Second Person, an Interview Met (...)

17This second semi-structured interview was based on the technique of meaning explanation (TME), which aims to explore more deeply participants’ descriptions of their lived experiences.24 In this study, the TME interview draws from the nine processes as proposed by Petitmengin: question raising; focusing attention; returning attention from “what” to “how”; moving from a general representation to a singular experience; retrospectively accessing a lived experience; drawing attention to the different dimensions of experience; deepening the description of a phenomenon to the level of accuracy required; deepening the description of characteristics other than those of a temporal nature of living; and encouraging the subject to describe phenomenon in his or her own words.25

Data Analysis

  • 26 Pascal Paillé & Adalgisa Battistelli, L’Analyse qualitative en sciences sociales (Paris: Armand Co (...)
  • 27 Ibid.

18The analysis of conceptual categories was the method chosen to analyze the data gathered in this study. A conceptual category is defined as a textual production presenting itself in the form of a brief expression, permitting the identification a phenomenon that is apparent through a conceptual reading of research material.26 Analysis of conceptual categories is carried out in two stages: vertical analysis, which is the analysis of all the data collected with one participant, and horizontal analysis, which is the comparative analysis of the data from all participants.27


  • 28 Ndengeyingoma, de Montigny & Miron, supra note 19 at 114–115.

19The results of this study demonstrate that recently immigrated youths describe the process of seeking friendship as part of a particular experience in a variety of well-defined contexts. This builds on previous qualitative research by the same author that demonstrated that seeking new friends is essential to the personal development of recently immigrated youths.28 The three contextual categories identified in relation to friendship-seeking in this study are neighbourhood context, sociocultural context, and family context. Each of these contexts poses certain potential problems for immigrant girls seeking to make friends. Unexpectedly, all of the participants found online communication to be a valuable way to overcome the barriers encountered in each of these contexts, which are expanded upon below.

Neighbourhood Context within the Experience of Friendship Seeking

  • 29 The interview transcripts, which were originally transcribed in French, were translated into Engli (...)

20The results of this study demonstrate that immigrant youths living in comparatively quiet neighbourhoods associate these neighbourhoods with difficulties in forming ties with local youth because face-to-face contact is practically impossible in certain neighbourhoods.As explained by F1 (14 years old), who had lived in Canada for two years: “I arrived here in the month of November. You don’t really see people. Here people are in their houses, I don’t even know my neighbours.”29 The participants found that they must often stay inside their houses. The concept of staying at home and being confined to a defined space was very different from participants’ lives in the countries where they lived prior to coming to Canada, where many participants were used to being outside most of the time.

21The feeling of being confined to the house, reported by several participants in this study, was more often associated with exerted parental control than it was with the “quiet neighbourhood” phenomenon. Comparatively quiet neighbourhoods do not facilitate the development of friendships for recently immigrated girls because they offer fewer opportunities for social interaction, especially if the young girl comes from a country where winter does not exist. Without knowing how to practice any winter sports, these girls often end up staying indoors for approximately four months, which does not facilitate face-to-face interactions with other youths. This type of situation can lead to internet communication becoming the most viable option for socializing.

  • 30 Commission Scolaire English-Montreal, “Registration” (Montreal: English Montreal School Board), su (...)

22For some participants in this study, the fact that their schools were located far from their neighbourhoods also increased the difficulties they experienced in forging relationships. Living in Quebec was a decision made by their parents; to study in Ontario was a decision made by participants. Since their studies prior to their arrival in Canada had been in English, and Quebec laws (with very limited exceptions) require that youth studying in Quebec study at Frenchlanguage institutions,30 participants chose to study in Ontario rather than lose a year of schooling that would be required to adapt to a change in the language of their education. This situation resulted in fewer students living in the same neighbourhood as their school. Online communication was found to be a valuable way to overcome this physical barrier.

23The participants in this study often described the school environment within the context of friendship-seeking. However, little was generally reported with regard to the geographical location of schools, how geographical barriers can impede the development of friendships, and how online spaces can help to overcome geographical barriers. The results of this study suggest that if the school is located far from the neighbourhood where the recently immigrated youth resides, then this may add to their difficulties in developing friendships, as there are fewer classmates living in their neighbourhood. Online communication may help youth to overcome physical barriers to communicate with school friends and other peer groups.

24The participants indicated that communication within the experience of seeking friendship is facilitated by the frequency and ease of access to the internet. Prior to immigrating, none of the participants had had access to the internet and, at the time of the study, none of them reported owning a laptop or a smartphone. However, all of the participants said that they used the internet regularly. They had internet access at home, and there was a desktop computer either in their room or in their siblings’ rooms. This accessibility allowed them to stay online in their bedrooms for a long time. The motives for using internet communication revolved most often around reinforcing real-life friendships, or searching for romantic relationships with people who shared the same values, as well as for advice as to the best course of action for different life situations.

Sociocultural Context within the Experience of Friendship Seeking

  • 31 Michael D. Reiter, Katherine Richmond, Amber Stirlen & Natalia Kompel, “Exploration of Intimacy in (...)

25Sociocultural context is associated with participants’ lived experiences in their school environments, as well as within their local neighbourhoods. As noted above, half of the participants reported living in the province of Quebec but studying in the province of Ontario, approximately twenty minutes away by bus. Participants reported that the school environment offered intercultural proximity, that is the opportunity to interact with peers from countries different from their own country of origin, and also intracultural proximity, that is interactions with peers from their country of origin.31

26They therefore had the opportunity to develop friendships as well as romantic relationships with other immigrant peers. Several participants reported a sense of ease in making friends in such a multicultural environment. As stated by F3 (16 years old): “I have friends from several cultures: Romanian, Chinese, Mexican. I can learn a lot from their cultures.”

27Some participants also mentioned that they can face stigmatization on the basis of their countries of origin or the colour of their skin. As F5 (16 years old) recounted, “I am told that girls from my country boast too much and talk too much, but I tell them that I am not that type of girl.” In order to avoid a discriminatory reaction, four participants stated that they do not reveal their country of origin most of the time, or that when they do reveal it, they specify that they grew up in another country. Often they choose to say that they are from lesser known countries. F6 (15 years old) explained, “I have African friends who say that they come from the Caribbean islands or that they are born in Europe. They don’t like to say that they come directly from Africa because people will ask them if they have lived through war or poverty, etc.”

28The sociocultural contexts in schools also offered the opportunity for participants to develop romantic relationships. Four out of six participants mentioned that they would like a serious relationship with a boy from another culture; one said that she was currently in such a relationship and another said that she did not currently know what kind of relationship she wanted, as she was focused on finishing her secondary studies.

29Several participants preferred intercultural romantic relationships, a preference that can potentially be related to participants’ tendencies to question relationship- and gender-related customs and stereotypes from their countries of origin. All six participants described that they were generally unfamiliar with customs from their countries of origin because they had grown up elsewhere. F2 (15 years old) explained:

In the culture of my country of origin, there are some very strange things that they call customs. For example, the women in my country of origin must stay at home and cook and clean while the man does nothing. Once they arrive here, the women must work, but they must also do all the house tasks alone, cooking, looking after the children and their homework, all while Mister does nothing, or watches television and says that it’s their custom.

30F4 (17 years old) stated:

Culture from where I come from, I find it very difficult. The man tells you what to do and you must obey without discussion. If your husband dies, you must marry his brother. I do not want to enter into a relationship where I would have to apply these customs.

31However, there were two participants who mentioned that, even if they would prefer an intercultural relationship, they would nonetheless enter a romantic relationship with a boy from their country of origin, provided that he was born or raised elsewhere and that his parents did not adhere to conservative cultural traditions or customs. The context behind this is that the participants in this study have virtually never lived in their country of origin because they were either born in a refugee camp or in a country that is not the country of origin of their parents. They used the internet and socializing with peers from the same cultural background as themselves to learn more about their culture, as well as observing their own family dynamics within that culture.

32According to the participants of this study, maintaining an intercultural relationship is not easy. They reported being the targets of degrading statements from peers from their countries of origin who hold conservative belief systems and who reflect traditional cultural views regarding relationship-related customs, where intercultural relationships are often condemned or discouraged. Participants described being told face to face that they were sellouts or cowards for maintaining intercultural relationships; they also described receiving e-mails that threatened to reveal their relationships to their parents. In this instance, online communication opened girls up to judgement from their peers and was a means of monitoring their behaviour for the purposes of discipline/conformity to traditional cultural expectations of relationships. This intimidation can occur both online and in person. Since an intercultural relationship may be accompanied by intracultural intimidation, participants felt that belonging to a group was necessary for protection from such intimidations.

33Just as participants recounted that their peers could condemn their intercultural relationships, they reported that their parents could similarly disapprove of these relationships. Because of this, most participants did not dare to reveal their relationships to their mothers. As F1 (14 years old) explained:

I have a Jamaican boyfriend. My mother does not know it! She will tell me that I’ve lost my head, that I am young, that I must learn that trying to live in a culture that is not your own is very difficult. If she knew, she would never let me leave our house. It’s my choice; I think that in life we need someone to listen to us, someone to love us.

34Sometimes participants’ parents approved of intercultural relationships, but with certain conditions attached. F2 (15 years old) said: “My parents may accept [an intercultural relationship], but not before 18 years old.” F5 (16 years old) explained her own parents’ conditions for acceptance of an intercultural relationship: “My parents may accept on condition that he does not spend the night at my house or myself at his house.”

35Intra- and intercultural proximity offers the possibility for friendship development within one’s own culture or with other cultures. This is the case in certain schools in the city of Ottawa, such as those attended by the participants in this study. This proximity facilitates intercultural friendship seeking for recently immigrated youths, offering a context within which to compare one’s own culture to others. While they did not report any discriminatory actions being taken against them, the participants described having interactions with immigrant and non-immigrant youth where they recounted hearing stereotyped or opinionated remarks aimed at devaluing the differences between their culture and other cultures. This is important to consider, since participants in this study expressed that they could face discrimination in relation to the application of traditional customs and cultural expectations for relationship and gender performance. When these forms of discrimination do not manifest in similar ways for members of the cultural majority, it is important to begin to more fully unpack the discrimination-related experiences of members of minority populations, including immigrant youth.

36For the purposes of this chapter, it is important to note that my participants valued online communication because it gave them a way to participate in relationships that might not meet the approval of family members. At the same time, it opened them up to possible repercussions when peers used online communication to register their own discomfort with intercultural friendships and relationships, especially if peers intended to tell parents about relationships that the girls may have chosen to keep private.

Family Context within the Experience of Friendship Seeking

37Participants described that family context could also facilitate or hinder their friendship and relationship seeking experiences. Conceptual categories that related to family context included the difficulty of communication with family members, liberty to socialize, and nonparental family relationships, which participants described as being helpful sources of advice when they felt less comfortable consulting their parents.

38Participants perceived communication with their fathers to be difficult: as F1 (14 years old) outlined, “Fathers don’t listen.” F4 (17 years old) reported a similar experience, stating that fathers “either don’t take you seriously or they tell you to go talk to your mother.” F6 (15 years old) similarly recounted that fathers “are there only to tell you what’s wrong or to set their expectations.” Since they perceived communication with their fathers to be difficult, participants mentioned that they would find it difficult to talk to their fathers about online problems.

39All participants found communication with their mothers to be easier than communication with their fathers, but noted that they could not speak freely with their mothers about all subjects, particularly if those subjects involved gender role expectations or social liberties:

At home, I live like I was in Africa. My mother wishes to remain Africa[n], so I don’t have a choice. I grew up like this. I think she says “no” before even listening to me. If I tell her that I’m going out with friends to a movie, she will tell me that I go out too often and that that is not good for a girl, that I must learn to stay home. (F4, 17 years old)

40While participants found it easier to talk to their mothers, they did feel pressure to be model children in their mothers’ eyes. A model child, participants suggested, would minimize her own suffering and not articulate problems such as online conflict that could potentially cause parents to feel stress or trauma. As F3 (16 years old) explained: “Immigrants who come from war-torn countries, the parents have suffered enough; we don’t have to be adding to that.” Other participants also reported that their parents have enough problems to manage, such as integrating into the Canadian workforce. In favour of not compounding the problems that they perceived their parents to be experiencing and to not disappoint their parents, participants often chose not to tell their parents about their problems. F2 (15 years old) noted that she understood her parents’ hardships and that her recognition of these hardships was demonstrated by obedience and not augmenting these problems by adding her own: “It must be difficult for them to return to do studies, to look for work, to look after us, etc.”

41Participants in this study described that their parents often did not allow them to go out or socialize with friends. Online communications allowed some participants to bypass these restrictions placed upon their socialization, allowing them an opportunity to maintain friendships they did not have the freedom to maintain face to face. For example, F1 (14 years old) stated that, “Since I cannot go out often, at least I chat with my friends every night.” It would appear that parents are aware that their teenage daughters are using online communication, as participants described having access to computers in their home; however, it is unclear whether parents are aware of the precise ways that their daughters are using these forms of communication. All of the participants mentioned that their parents had not had internet access in their country of origin, implying that their parents were not fully familiar with the intricacies and capabilities of online communication, as they were likely less experienced themselves with the use of these tools.

42While participants did not feel like they could always speak freely with their parents, they did describe that other family members provided a family context wherein they could seek advice or support. All participants had found a comparatively young person, but older than themselves, within their immediate or extended family from whom they could seek advice. F1 (14 years old) detailed that, “I ask my sister because we’re on the same level, we’re both young”; other participants found similar confidants in siblings or cousins. However, participants mentioned that sometimes there were nonetheless things that they could not tell these confidants for fear of disappointing them.

  • 32 Cindy L. Shearer, Ann C. Crouter & Susan McHale, “Parents’ Perceptions of Changes in Mother-Child, (...)

43It should also be noted that these reported family contexts are not specific to immigrant populations. Shearer, Crouter, and McHale, for example, have demonstrated that mothers generally know more than fathers about their teenagers’ activities and are more likely than fathers to obtain new information, either by actively monitoring their adolescent or through voluntary disclosure of information by the adolescent.32 What seems to be different in this current study is the cohesion within participants’ non-parental family relationships that allowed for an influential role of an older sister or cousin, who served as a confidant or sounding board for problems that participants did not feel they could discuss with their parents. However, it should be noted (as above) that in order to avoid judgement or to avoid disappointing their sisters or cousins, there were certain limitations to topics that participants felt they could discuss with these family members, who were at times considered to be more like advisors and less like confidants.

44In summary, the use of the internet as a method for friendshipseeking emerged as a commonly occurring conceptual category in this study, in both an empowering and a constraining manner. This suggests that further research is needed to explore the use of the internet for friendship seeking in neighbourhood contexts, sociocultural contexts, and family contexts.


  • 33 Stephanie M. Reich & Kaveri Subrahmanyam, “Friending, IMing, and Hanging Out Face-to-Face: Overlap (...)

45In the female youth population in general, there are studies, such as the open-ended survey conducted by Reich and Subrahmanyam, which report that internet communication is used by some young women to fill the void that they perceive is left when they cannot see their friends in person.33 My findings suggest that recently immigrated participants may also use online communication to bypass restrictions on leaving the house or to deflect the judgment from their peers and parents about their relationship choices. Further research is also needed to explore how internet communication is used by recently immigrated youth to reinforce real-life relationships, to seek out friendships with peers who share similar values, or to clarify one’s point of view on a situation.

46There are also important questions to ask about immigrant girls’ experiences of online harassment. Communications between this study’s participants and their parents already faced certain constraints, for example, when participants limited self-disclosure to parents for fear of disappointing them or compounding the hardships their parents experienced. This leads one to presume that a recently immigrated adolescent girl who is being cyberbullied because she is in an intercultural relationship will not be likely to report the bullying, as it will also reveal her relationship status to her parents. It is possible that intercultural cyberbullying could also lead to parents banning or monitoring the use of internet communication, compounding the isolation that recently immigrated young girls may feel.

47The results presented in this study allowed for a discussion of the potential factors significant to the use of the internet in friendship seeking, as told by six adolescent female youths using their migratory experiences to Canada’s capital region as a starting point. These exploratory results suggest three potential areas of focus for future research investigating the role of the internet in recent immigrants’ social experiences, including neighbourhood contexts, sociocultural contexts, and family contexts. It would further appear that parents monitor online interactions less than they monitor offline social interactions. The role of the internet in the lives of this study’s young, recently immigrated participants is highlighted, as it can act as a substitute for forbidden outings with peers and as a place for socialization or dating that may be discouraged by others from taking place.


1 Amrit Dhariwal, Jennifer Connolly, Marinella Paciello & Gian Vittorio Caprara, “Adolescent Peer Relationships and Emerging Adult Romantic Styles: A Longitudinal Study of Youth in an Italian Community,” Journal of Adolescent Research 24 (2009): 594–595, doi:10.1177/0743558409341080; Julee P. Farley & Jungmeen Kim-Spoon, “The Development of Adolescent Self-Regulation: Reviewing the Role of Parent, Peer, Friend, and Romantic Relationships,” Journal of Adolescence, 37:4 (2014): 436–437, <>; Irene H. A. De Goede, Susan J. T. Branje, Marc J. M. H. Delsing & Wim H. J. Meeus, “Linkages Over Time between Adolescents’ Relationships with Parents and Friends,” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 38 (2009): 1312, <>.

2 Mehra Bharat, Cecelia Merkel & Ann Peterson Bishop, “The Internet for Empowerment of Minority and Marginalized Users,” New Media & Society 6 (2004): 781–802, <>; Nelly Elias & Dafna Lemish, “Spinning the Web of Identity: The Roles of the Internet in the Lives of Immigrant Adolescents,” New Media & Society 11 (2009): 533-551, <>.

3 Government of Canada, “Canada — Permanent residents by category, 2009–2013,” < preliminary/01.asp>.

4 Farah Ahmad, Angela Shik, Reena Vanza, Angela Cheung, Usha George & Donna E. Stewart, “Popular Health Promotion Strategies Among Chinese and East Indian Immigrant Women,” Women and Health 40 (2004): 21–40, doi:10.1300/J013v40n01_02.

5 Brett Laursen, David Wilder, Peter Noack & Vickie Williams, “Adolescent Perceptions of Reciprocity, Authority and Closeness in Relationships with Mothers, Fathers and Friends,” International Journal of Behavioral Development 24:4 (2000): 471, <>

6 Ibid. at 470.

7 John W. Berry, Jean S. Phinney, David L. Sam & Paul Vedder, “Immigrant Youth: Acculturation, Identity and Adaptation,” Applied Psychology: An International Review, 55 (2006): 316–317, <>

8 Shaibu Ahmed Gariba, Race, Ethnicity, Immigration and Jobs: Labour Market Access Among Ghanaian and Somali Youth in the Greater Toronto Area (Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto, 2009), 222–229, unpublished dissertation, <>.

9 Linda P. Juang & Alvin A. Alvarez, “Discrimination and Adjustment Among Chinese American Adolescents: Family Conflict and Family Cohesion as Vulnerability and Protective Factors,” American Journal of Public Health, 100 (2010): 3–4, <>.

10 Ibid. at 5.

11 Annie J. Ahn, Bryan S. K. Kim & Yong S. Park, “Asian Cultural Values Gap, Cognitive Flexibility, Coping Strategies, and Parent-Child Conflicts Among Korean Americans,” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 14:4 (2008): 38–41, doi:10.1037/1099-9809.14.4.353.

12 Kimberly A. Updegraff, Melissa Y. Delgado & Lorey A. Wheeler, “Exploring Mothers’ and Fathers’ Relationships with Sons Versus Daughters: Links to Adolescent Adjustment in Mexican Immigrant Families,” Sex Roles 60 (2009): 559–574, <>.

13 Marwan Dwairy & Mustafa Achoui, “Parental Control: A Second Cross-Cultural Research on Parenting and Psychological Adjustment of Children,” Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19 (2010): 2, 21, <>.

14 Elias & Lemish, supra note 2 at 547.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.; Brendesha M. Tynes, Michael T. Giang & Geneene N. Thompson, “Ethnic Identity, Intergroup Contact, and Outgroup Orientation Among Diverse Groups of Adolescents on the Internet,” CyberPsychology & Behavior 11 (2008): 463, <>; Bharat et al, supra note 2 at 786.

17 Sonia Livingstone & Ellen Helsper, “Balancing Opportunities and Risks in Teenagers’ Use of the Internet: The Role of Online Skills and Internet Self-Efficacy,” New Media & Society 12 (2010): 13–14, <>; Kelly L. Schmitt, Shoshana Dayanim & Stacey Matthias, “Personal Homepage Construction as an Expression of Social Development,” Developmental Psychology 44 (2008): 499–500, <>; Patti M. Valkenburg & Jochen Peter, “Preadolescents’ and Adolescents’ Online Communication and Their Closeness to Friends,” Developmental Psychology 43:2 (2007): 275, <>

18 Urie Bronfenbrenner, The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), 10; Urie Bronfenbrenner & Ann C. Crouter, “The Evolution of Environmental Models in Developmental Research,” in Handbook of Child Psychology, History, Theory and Methods, 4th ed., eds. Paul Henry Mussen & William Kessen (New York: Wiley, 1983), 357–417; Urie Bronfenbrenner & Pamela Morris, “The Ecology of Developmental Process,” in Handbook of Child Psychology, eds. William Damon & Richard M. Lerner (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998), 993–1028; Urie Bronfenbrenner & Gary W. Evans, “Developmental Science in the 21st Century: Emerging Questions, Theoretical Models, Research Designs and Empirical Findings,” Social Development 9 (2000): 115–125, <>.

19 Assumpta Ndengeyingoma, Francine de Montigny & Jean-Marie Miron, “Development of Personal Identity among Refugee Adolescents: Facilitating Elements and Obstacles,” Journal of Child Health Care, Epub (12 August 2013); doi:1367493513496670; Assumpta Ndengeyingoma, Francine de Montigny & Jean-Marie Miron, “Représentations de l’expérience migratoire d’adolescents africains immigrants avec leur famille au Québec,” Revue Québécoise de psychologie 34 (2013): 114–115.

20 Laurence Manesse, “Autour du concept d’expérience chez Benjamin,” Revue Appareil (2011): 7–8, <>.

21 Ministère de l’Immigration, de la diversité et de l’Inclusion, “L’immi grat ion permanente au Québec selon les catégories d’immigration et quelques composantes 2009–2013,” 66, <>.

22 Michael Huberman & Matthew B. Miles, “Data Management and Analysis Methods,” in Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials, eds.Norman K. Denzin & Yvonna S. Lincoln (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000), 220.

23 Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln & Michael D. Giardina, “Disciplining Qualitative Research,” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 19 (2006): 778, < and%20Giardina.pdf>.

24 Pierre Vermersch, “Vécus et couches des vécus,” Expliciter 66 (2006): 40–41, <>.

25 Claire Petitmengin, “Describing One’s Subjective Experience in the Second Person, an Interview Method for the Science of Consciousness,” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 5 (2006): 13–29, <>.

26 Pascal Paillé & Adalgisa Battistelli, L’Analyse qualitative en sciences sociales (Paris: Armand Colin, 2003), 147–148.

27 Ibid.

28 Ndengeyingoma, de Montigny & Miron, supra note 19 at 114–115.

29 The interview transcripts, which were originally transcribed in French, were translated into English.

30 Commission Scolaire English-Montreal, “Registration” (Montreal: English Montreal School Board), subheading 4: <>.

31 Michael D. Reiter, Katherine Richmond, Amber Stirlen & Natalia Kompel, “Exploration of Intimacy in Intercultural and Intracultural Romantic Relationships in College Students,” College Student Journal 43 (2009): 1080.

32 Cindy L. Shearer, Ann C. Crouter & Susan McHale, “Parents’ Perceptions of Changes in Mother-Child, Father-Child Relationships During Adolescence,” Journal of Adolescent Research 20:6 (2005): 662–684, doi:10.1177/0743558405275086.

33 Stephanie M. Reich & Kaveri Subrahmanyam, “Friending, IMing, and Hanging Out Face-to-Face: Overlap in Adolescents’ Online and Offline Social Networks,” Developmental Psychology 48 (2012): 361–365, doi:10.1037/a0026980.


Professor at the Nursing Department of the Université du Quebec en Outaouais. She is affiliated with several groups and research centres, including le Groupe interdisciplinaire de recherche en sciences de la santé et milieux favorables (le GIRESSS; the interdisciplinary research group in health sciences and healthy communities), le Centre d’étude et de recherche en intervention familiale (le CERIF; the study and research centre in familial intervention), and la Chaire interdisciplinaire de recherche en littératie et inclusion (la CIRLI; interdisciplinary research chair in literacy and inclusion). Her research interests are focused on the wellbeing and health of vulnerable groups (immigrants, teens) and strategies for inclusive education for health


Volume papier
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search