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Issue 2014, 1

Home and away: hybrid perspective on identity formation in 1.5 and second generation adolescent immigrants in Israel. By H. Zubida, L. Lavi, R. A. Harper, O. Nakash, A. Shoshani

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Abstract: Immigration is not only about changing countries, but also about shifting identities. This change is especially important for adolescents. This article examines identity formation among 1.5 and 2nd generation adolescent immigrants to Israel. A survey of 125 children of immigrants aged 12-19 examined the role of social structures such as pace of life, culture, religion and language on identity formation in 1.5 and 2nd generational groups. We have identified several significant factors affecting the identities of children of migrants in each group. Looking beyond self-labeling, we argue that identity formation among children of immigrants is a continuous process in which the host country and origin country, both or neither of them, create dynamic hybrid patterns of identifications.

Keywords: hybridity, immigration, Israel, identity, generational groups.


Incorporation of immigrants’ and the challenges of acceptance into a new culture is an arduous one for immigrants. This process affects the inner world of the immigrant, influencing his sense of self and his identity formation process (Schwartz, Montgomery and Briones 2006; Schwartz 2005; Phinney et al. 2001). However, this process is not entirely intrinsic or psychological. Massive economic, social and cultural forces are an inseparable part of the development of identity that immigrants experience once they arrive in the host country.

In this article we examine identity formation among immigrants, focusing on adolescence, the age when identity formation takes place for all people. These youths develop their personal identity as they confront conflicting ethnic, personal and national identity options. They face with both host and origin social constructs, contradicting expectations, traditions and norms during the process of individual identity formation. Thus, employing a hybrid perspective we look beyond self-labeling to trace the role of social structures in the identity formation of 1.5 and 2nd generation adolescents.

Identity of immigrants’ children: between ‘here’ and ‘there’

Children of immigrants, especially adolescents in the process of constructing their identity (Erikson 1968), face conflicting social contexts in which they attempt to incorporate “here” and “there” into a meaningful sense of self (Zhou 1997a; Rumbaut 1994). They develop, and are socialized into familial and ethnic communities including language, values and customs from the country of origin. However, at the same time they are educated in the host educational system, emphasizing local customs and language proficiency (Bernal and Knight, 1993; Berry 1997 and 2001; Rumbaut 1994). This duality of contexts makes the process of identity formation of adolescent immigrants significantly different than the one of their first generation parents. Among children of immigrants, this process is:

"[M]ore complex, and often entails the juggling of competing allegiances and attachments. Situated within two cultural worlds, they must define themselves in relation to multiple reference groups (sometimes in two countries and in two languages) and to the classifications into which they are placed by their native peers, the schools, the ethnic community, and the larger society" (Rumbaut 2005b, 304).

Facing influences from both host and origin social contexts, immigrant adolescents cope with (sometime) dissonant cultural contexts. Due to the complicated developmental process of identity formation among these youths, they become aware of the national and ethnic boundaries surrounding them (Rumbaut 1994; Rumbaut 2005a). Thus, they are required to incorporate multiple norms, values and expectations.

According to assimilation theory, this process will achieve its end-goal as adolescents abandon origin characterizations, adjust to the host country and be absorbed into the host society (Warner and Srole 1945; Abramson 1981; Glazer 1993; Gleason 1981; Alba and Nee 1997; Park 1928; Wirth [1925] 1956). Alternative theories, such as the segmented assimilation theory (Rumbaut 1994; Portes and Zhou 1993; Portes and Rumbaut 2001; Rumbaut and Portes 2001; Zhou 1997b) and pluralism (Glazer and Moynihan 1970; Handlin 1973), suggest that children of immigrants are affected by both origin and host cultural, economic and social backgrounds (Haller and Landolt 2005; Mistry and Wu 2010). Thus, for these youth, origin and host identities are constantly interacting with each other (Young 1993). At times, immigrants’ children utilize their ethnic identity, information channels and social norms as social-capital (Greeley 1976; Conzen et al. 1992); on others instances, institutional and social barriers assimilate them to different segments of the host society, adopting (and rejecting) certain cultural practices and norms (Portes and Zhou 1993).

Building on these ideas, De La Rosa (2002) suggests a conceptual framework of identity formation. He offers that there are four levels along the acculturation continuum of immigrant adolescence[1]: 1) Low level of cultural identity with their culture of origin or their parents’ culture of origin and low level of cultural identity with the prevailing European-American mainstream values – “Neither here nor there”. 2) Low level of cultural identity with their culture of origin or their parents’ culture of origin and high level of cultural identity with the prevailing European-American mainstream values – “Here and not there”. 3) High level of cultural identity with their culture of origin or their parents’ culture of origin and low level of cultural identity with the prevailing European-American mainstream values – “There and not here”. 4) High level of cultural identity with their culture of origin or their parents’ culture of origin and high level of cultural identity with prevailing European-American mainstream values – “Both here and there”[2].

In this paper we adopt De La Rosa’s general model and claim that these four identities are not levels along an acculturation continuum, but rather they represent four modes of identity. Thus, without implying a normative direction for these identities, we propose that they consist of different combinations between host and origin components. Instead of the dichotomist classification of De La Rosa, we propose an identity formation process in which the adolescents can move between the different identity modalities. Under this perspective, identity formation is a dynamic process in which host and origin components establish a sense of self.

Employing a non-directional and a multidimensional meaning to this terminology, we posit that since social identities are complex structures, labels alone are insufficient for understanding how the identity of adolescent children of immigrants is being formed (Ashmore, Deaux, and McLaughlin-Volpe 2004). Instead, we offer a hybrid perspective and argue that their identity is fluid and flexible. That is, the combinations of host and origin influences not only within each identity category but also between them reflect how immigrant adolescents manage the complexity of multiple reference points (Verkuyten 1995). Looking beyond self-labeling, identity formation among children of immigrants can be described as a continuous process in which the host country, the origin country, both of them or neither of them, creates dynamic patterns of identity.

The term “hybrid” is used here to convey multiplicity, dynamicity and flexibility of the identity formation process among migrant adolescents. Thus, it postulates that these adolescents can hold different, even contradicting, identities with loose boundaries. Homi Bhabha (1994) uses the term to highlight options of “in-between”, in which humans are not “this or that”, but rather are simultaneously “both this and that” and “neither this or that”. He stresses that hybridity is “a constant state of contestation and flux caused by the differential systems of social and cultural significations […] the unstable element of linkage” (Bhabha 1994, 227).

In the immigration discourse, hybridity is usually conceived as the process of cultural mixing in which immigrants “adopt aspects of the host culture and rework, reform and reconfigure them in production of new hybrid culture or ‘hybrid identities’“ (Kalra, Kalhon, and Hutynuk 2005, 71). Thus, it is useful to conceptualize the process of identity formation as hybrid in order to grasp the complexities emerging from the combination of different (host and origin) cultures.

This hybrid perspective is especially important when considering the variance among immigrants’ sub-groups. Recent studies (Kelly and Schauffler 1996; Levitt and Waters 2002; Portes and Rumbaut 2001; Bhatia, 2007) suggest that not only children differ from their migrant parents, but they also found a difference in the socio-cultural and psychological experiences between the 1.5 generation and the second generation adolescents.

Although they are in the same phase of identity development, adolescences from different generational groups employ and combine self-identification labels differently. The literature on children of immigrants varies between children who were born in the host country, i.e. second generation, and children who migrated to the host country before reaching adulthood, i.e. 1.5 generation (Rumbaut 1991; Gans 1992; Portes 1996).

Studies on the second generation characterize their experience as one of rapid processes of acculturation, accompanied by strong feelings of attachment for ethnic, pan-ethnic, national, racial or religious dimensions (Buriel, 1993; Haller and Landolt 2005; Zhou 1997a; Zhou 1997b; Levitt and Waters 2002; Kelly and Schauffler 1996; Bhatia and Ram, 2001). In contrast, studies on the 1.5 generation reveal lingering questions about attachment and affiliation. Adolescents who migrated during the years of “identity crisis” (Erikson 1968) experience complicated cultural transition, marked by ambivalence and identity split (Perez 1994; Rumbaut 1991), even “segmented” marked by dual tracks of adjustment to the receiving state and clinging to origin state culture and practices (Remennick 2003).

Regarding self-identification, Rumbaut (2005a) has found that adolescents who were born in the United States tended to identify as hyphenated-American or as plain-American, but not as their parents’ national origin. Tovar and Feliciano (2009) and Fuligni Witkow and Garcia (2005) indicate similar patterns as they show that being a second generation immigrant child greatly increases the likelihood of identifying through host country identity (hyphenated or not) while belonging to the 1.5 generation is associated with national-origin identity; and that this pattern is stable over time. Further, 1.5’ers are more likely than second generation to maintain a consistent identity and the second generation is more likely than 1.5 generation to use different self-labels interchangeably in different contexts (Tovar and Feliciano 2009). Birthplace is, thus, key in determining identity categories for adolescence. Immigrant adolescents seek to create flexible combinations of identifications, using the fluid borders between the different labels.

Following these insights, our aim is to better understand the variation of identity formation between 1.5 and second generation adolescents. Going beyond the self-labeling of those adolescences, we will explore how different social structures, measured via acculturation index[3] (Ward and Rana-Deuba 1999), influence the mosaic of identities found among children of immigrants and immigrant children.

In this study, we examine the role of various social structures in predicting differences in identity formation among non-Jewish, non-Arab 1.5 and second generation immigrant adolescents in Israel. During their formative years, these adolescents face multiple, sometimes contradicting, social and cultural settings that influence their identity formation. Hence, we hypothesize that both 1.5 generation and second generation migrants, will show hybrid identity formation. We contend that identity patterns will differ between the two groups, as 1.5 will be more likely to identify with their country of origin, and second generation less likely to identify with their parents’ origin country and more likely to identify with Israel. Furthermore, we conjecture that social structures are a key explanatory variable; that is, some social structures will influence the 1.5 generation identity formation patterns, while others will influence the second generation patterns.

By examining the national identity from the host country and origin country, we hope to shed some light on 1) the hybridity of identity among 1.5 and 2nd generation adolescents; and 2) on the significance of social structures in the identity formation process of these adolescents. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that incorporates hybrid perspective into the investigation of how social structures influence the identity formation of these groups in Israel.

The israeli case study

Migrant Workers in Israel

Israel is inseparable part of the global trend of immigration and has become a destination of choice for mass foreign immigration mostly from the Philippines, Nepal, Thailand, Romania, China, and the republics of the former Soviet Union (FSU), especially over the last two decades (Willen 2007; Harper and Zubida 2010a; Harper and Zubida 2010b). The number of “temporary” labor migrants (legally present contract workers, visa overstaying former contract workers, those who entered without permission to work and work in Israel) was estimated at more than a quarter of a million; about two-thirds are illegally present (Nathan 2010). Additionally, about 60,000 asylum-seekers and refugees, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan are seeking refuge in Israel (Nathan 2010). Foreign labor accounts for about 10 percent of the Israeli labor market, surpassing all industrialized countries (except for Switzerland) in foreign labor as a percent of the labor force (oecd 2001).

Israel poses an intriguing setting for understanding contemporary temporary migrants in an ethnonational state (Smooha 1997; Smooha 2002; Yiftachel 2006): while its doors are wide open to Jews, regardless of national background, the exclusive nature of “Jewishness” rebuffs penetration from non-Jews (Rosenhek 2007). All Jews arriving in Israel are automatically citizens of Israel if they request aliya (Hebrew for “immigration” and also refers to ascending for religious honors). All others are considered temporary and expected to leave after completing tourism or work (Harper and Zubida 2010b; Bartram 2011).

Children of Migrant Workers in Israel

Official Israeli state numbers estimates that there are 2000 children of labor migrants and an additional 1000 children of asylum-seekers/refugees in Israel (Nathan 2010). Some do have citizenship from their parents’ countries of origin, but may have no attachment to those countries beyond the legal claims, as they may have never even visited their parents’ home countries or speak the parents’ native language. Some remain stateless as their parents’ nations of origin do not, or will not, recognize them.

In June 2005, the government recognized the growing number of children of migrants residing in Israel who fell into this precarious non-status but who were socialized into Israeli society. It developed an amnesty option for children whose parents entered Israel legally but overstayed their visas or fell out of status, and were at least 10 years old, lived continuously in Israel, studied at Israeli schools, spoke Hebrew and deemed “removing (these children) from Israel would be akin to ‘cultural exile’ to a country with which (they have) no cultural ties” (Cabinet Communiqué 26 June 2005). Parents were given the opportunity to apply for status adjustment for their minor children. If granted, the parents and any minor siblings would gain renewable temporary residency status through their children. Once the children served in the Israeli army, the government would extend citizenship to siblings and parents would gain permanent residency, thus letting them be “reborn” as Israelis. (The expectation was to use the military as an agent of socialization as had been considered the normal trajectory for Jewish immigrants to Israel; Kimmerling 2004). The Population Authority stipulated that 460 families, accounting for 1400 people, have applied for status; 35 families had been approved as of 2006 (Sa’ar 2006).

The flipside of this state receptivity to certain Israeli-socialized migrants’ children is an intermittently implemented draconian policy of mass deportation campaigns. Government deportation efforts include, since mid-2012, deportation of children as they left school, engendering fear in both legally and illegally present migrants. In 2009, Israel issued a deportation warrant for 1,200 migrant children, but due to mass public pressure, the government postponed – but did not rescind – the deportation order[4]. In July 2010, the government decided to deport 400 children and between June and August of 2012, the Israeli government arrested and deported migrants and their children (Liphshiz, 2010; Ilan 2012; Weiler-Polak and Lis 2012; Weiler-Polak 2012; Cohen 2012; Rosenberg and Weiler-Polak 2012).

The present study focuses on adolescent migrants in families that migrated to Israel due to political and economic reasons. Clear definitions of the immigration status of these adolescents (i.e., labor immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees) were not possible to ascertain in the current study. Although some have argued that these groups cannot be compared because of their disparate migration status, we contend that especially for the children of irregular migrants their situation in Israel is quite similar. That is, these children may face different pre-migration trajectories, their status in Israel is equally tenuous, as Israeli law provides no normal means of adjustment of status and provides few extraordinary avenues and many of the children are stateless. This renders them a more homogeneous group than at first glance and in comparison with many other industrialized countries, where their statuses are quite distinct (Nakash et al. 2012; Harper and Zubida 2010a). Furthermore, these migrant adolescents are likely to share similar post-migration experiences since they all are educated in Israeli schools and are exposed to Israeli society and culture.


We conducted a survey among 125 children of immigrants from various parts of the world (see table 1) in May 2011. The convenience sample was recruited from a school in central Israel that has a large non-Jewish, non-Arab migrant population. All participants completed several measures which included: a demographic questionnaire, several psychological measures and In-Group Identification measure (Doosje, Ellemers and Spears 1999) that assesses identification with heritage culture and the Explicit Out-Group Attitudes measure (Haddock, Zanna and Esses 1993) that assesses attitudes toward Israeli culture. Average time to complete all measures was 30 minutes. All study procedures were approved and carried out in accordance with the Israeli Ministry of Education’s ethical committee for research with human subjects.


Dependent Variable. The dependent variable is the identity of 1.5 and second generation immigrant adolescents. This variable was derived from the answers to the question “there are various ways in which people define themselves- which of the following sentences is closest to the way you define yourself?” (Ward and Rana-Deuba 1999). Five sentences were presented as a possible answer: 1) I relate to myself as someone from the country of origin; 2) I relate myself as country of origin-Israel, although deep down I know I will always be from the country of origin; 3) I relate myself as country of origin-Israel, I see myself as a mixture of both; 4) I relate myself as country of origin-Israel, although deep down I see myself as first and foremost Israeli; 5) I relate to myself as Israeli.

Thus, categories 1 and 5 are unitary, relating to the country of origin and to Israel, respectively. Categories 2 and 4 are hyphenated, employing two, uneven components. Category 3 reflects bi-cultural identification, combining Israel and the country of origin equally. The entire scale creates a continuum of definitions, ranging from identifying with the country of origin to identifying with Israel.

Control Variable. The moderating variable is the generational status of the adolescents. That is, whether they are 1.5’s who immigrated to Israel or second generation who were born in Israel. This variable was derived from the question about their country of birth.

Independent Variables. The independent variables included 18 social structures (see: Ward and Rana-Deuba 1999): clothing, pace of life, general knowledge, religious beliefs, material comfort, recreational activities, food, family life, accommodation, values, friendships, communication style, self-identity, cultural activities, language, world views, social customs, and employment activities. For each of these structures we presented two scales ranging from 1 (not similar at all) to 7 (very similar) - one scale for similarity with country of origin and the other for similarity to Israel[5].

Models and Procedures

We employed chi-square analyses in order to explore the relationship between generational status and identification patterns of adolescents. Chi-square analyses were also conducted in order to move beyond self-labeling towards explanation of the social structures that influence each of the generational groups. anova and interaction regression analyses were used in order to explore the effect of social constructs of identity structure of 1.5 generation and second generation adolescents.


Socio-demographic profile

The socio-demographic characteristics of the 1.5 and second generation participants are presented in Table 1. The sample consists of 125 migrant adolescents (ages 12 to 19; M=14.59, SD =1.85) studying at Israeli school in south Tel Aviv. 60 were born in Israel to immigrant parents (second generation) and 65 migrated to Israel (1.5 generation). Migrants belonging to 1.5 generation were slightly older than participants in the second generation group. Out of the participants, 54% were female and the remainder were males. The majority of migrant participants in both generations reported having “above average” socioeconomic status. The majority of the participants were Christian (66%). Thirty percent of the participants

Table 1. Socio-demographic Characteristics of 1.5 and second Generation Migrants


1.5 Generation



2nd Generation













55% (31)

53% (30)

Continent (father)*




3% (2)

Far East

10% (6)

35% (20)

      FSU and

Eastern Europe


38% (24)


7% (4)

South America

10% (6)

12% (7)


30% (19)

29% (17)

Middle East

13% (8)

14% (8)


Socioeconomic status




Very good

16% (10)

37% (21)


38% (24)

30% (17)


38% (24)

26% (15)


6% (4)

7% (4)

Very low

2% (1)






7% (4)

9% (5)


24% (15)

10% (6)


58% (36)

75% (44)


11% (7)

7% (4)



originated in Africa, 23% originated in FSU or Europe, 21% in the Far East, 11% in South America and 12% in the Middle East. In the 1.5 group, 34% were born in FSU or Europe, 29% were born in Africa, 17% in the Middle East, 11% in South America and 9% in the Far East. More 1.5 generation reported living with both parents and siblings in the house (42%) compared with second generation migrants (33%).

Self-identification of adolescents

Seventy-eight participants (62%) answered the “self-identification” question. This is a low percentage of response. We attribute this to the sensitivity of the issue that stands at the base of this research – the question of identity and the way migrant children see their own identity – the contested nature of this issue also resulted in avoidance. Thirty-eight percent of our respondents refrained from answering the identity question. Among the rest of responses, the distribution is as follows: 30 percent of them identified themselves by their country of origin and only 12% as Israeli. 42% identified themselves as a mixture of both countries (that is, as bi-cultural). Twelve percent said they identify mostly by the country of origin and 5% mostly as Israeli.

In order to explore how nativity (being born in Israel or not) affects these identifications, we compared 1.5 and second generations’ self-identifications. Similar to previous studies (Rumbaut 2005a; Tovar and Feliciano 2009; Fuligni, Witkow, and Garcia 2005), we found significant difference between the identification patterns of 1.5 and second generation adolescents (χ2=12, α<.05). While both groups identified mainly through the category of a mixture of Israeli and the country of origin (42% of the second generation and 43% of the 1.5 generation), the other identifications varied greatly. 43% of 1.5 generation adolescents identified through their country of origin, while only 14% of those in the second generation group chose this identification. However, 17% of the second generation adolescents chose to identify as Israeli, in comparison to 7% of the 1.5 generation adolescents. Second generation adolescents tended more often than 1.5 generation to choose hyphenated labels - 19% identified as origin-Israeli (mostly origin) and 8% as origin-Israeli (mostly Israeli). Only 5% and 2%, respectively, of the 1.5 generation chose these labels.

Gender, socio-economic status and ethnic origin were not significantly associated with self-identification of the adolescents.

Social structures and identity formation in 1.5 and Second generation migrant adolescence

In order to move beyond self-labeling, the effect of 18 social structures on self-identification patterns was examined. Thirteen of those structures were found especially important for the identity development of 1.5 and second generation children of immigrants: pace of life, general knowledge, recreational activities, accommodation, friendships, communication style, self-identity, cultural activities, language, world views, social customs, employment activities, and family life.

Statistical analyses reveal that these structures form a unique pattern of identity formation for each group of adolescents. Cross-tab distributions were made for pairs of social structures (similarity to country of origin X similarity to Israel) and χ2 analyses were made in order to evaluate the patterns. Drawing on De La Rosa’s (2002) model, we found that although the social structures form bi-cultural pattern for both groups, for the 1.5 group they also form a pattern of “there and not here” identity and for the second generation they form a pattern of “here and not there” identity. Moreover, we found that different social structures underlie these different categories.

In 12 social structures a bi-cultural trend of mixture between Israel and the country of origin was found in the 1.5 group: pace of life (χ2=29.14, α<.05), general knowledge (χ2=29.37, α<.05), recreational activities (χ2=37.23, α<.01), accommodation/residence (χ2=31.64, α<.05), friendships (χ2=36.09, α<.01), communication styles (χ2=27.27, α<.05), self-identity (χ2=43.26, α<.01), cultural activities (χ2=49.40, α<.01), language (χ2=42.80, α<.01), world views (χ2=35.13, α<.01), social customs (χ2=37.16, α<.01), employment activities (χ2=29.97, α<.05).

We also found that 1.5’s identify with their country of origin’s religious beliefs (χ2=35.78, α<0.01), food (χ2=46.22, α<0.01), family life (χ2=43.16, α<0.01) and values (χ2=28.06, α<0.05). The few variables in which we found stringer Israeli identity were not significant.

For the second generation, four social structures were found significant for the bi-cultural trend: friendships (χ2=32.54, α<0.01), communication style (χ2=34.75, α<0.01), self-identity (χ2=36.62, α<0.01), and world-views (χ2=28.78, α<0.05). In one variable, employment activities, we found mixed trends- both identification with Israel and the country of origin and identification with none of them received high scores (χ2=34.92, α<0.01).

Other variables showed significant trends towards Israeli identification: pace of life (χ2=27.76, α<0.05), general knowledge (χ2=28.55, α<0.05) and social customs (χ2=41.08, α<0.01). Some more variables showed the same pattern even though were not significant: clothing, material comfort, recreational activities (marginal signification), accom­modation/residence and cultural activities. Only in one variable the ratings indicated second generation’s similarity to the country of origin: religious beliefs (not significant).

Differences between 1.5 and Second Generation Adolescence

In order to examine the role played by different social structures in the groups’ identification patterns, we combined every two scales of identification (similarity to country of origin and similarity to Israel in each of the social structure) into one index. We incorporated the origin and local identity components into one variable with the 4 values suggested by De La Rosa (2002): 1. Not here or there (low scoring in both original variables); 2. Here and not there (high scoring in the Israeli variable, low scoring in the origin variable); 3. There and not here (high scoring in the origin variable, low scoring in the Israeli variable); 4. Both here and there (high scoring in both original variables).

All the measures indicate that the majority of both 1.5 and second generations show bi-cultural tendencies meaning they are in the “both here and there” category. However, they also indicate that second generation children’s responses are more consistent with the “here and not there” category while 1.5’s are more likely to be consistent with the “there and not here” category. In four social structures in the combined measure these patterns were found significant- general knowledge, communication styles, cultural activities and language (table 2).

We used anova to examine the impact of different social structures on identity differences between 1.5 and second generation (table 3).The key statistically significant finding is the difference between 1.5 and second generations in terms of country of identity: 1.5’s tend to identify more with the country of origin, while second generation adolescents tend to identify more with Israel. This

Table 2. Differences between 1.5 and second Generation Migrants in Combined Measures of Identification[6]


Not Here

not There

Here and

not There

There and

not Here

Both here

and There


General knowledge






1.5 Generation





Second Generation






Communication styles






1.5 Generation






Second Generation







Cultural activities






1.5 Generation






Second Generation













1.5 Generation






Second Generation







Table 3. anova analysis of differences between 1.5 and second generation adolescents in social structures


1.5 generation (mean)

Second generation (mean)


World views*




General knowledge*




Religious beliefs*




Cultural activities*









*α≤0.05; **α<0.01

pattern resonated in the social structures: world views (M­1.5= 4.10, M2= 4.91; F=4.16, α<.05), general knowledge (M­1.5= 4.58, M2=3.85; F=3.90, α<.05), Religious beliefs (M­1.5= 5.12, M2= 4.31; F=4.12, α<.05), Cultural activities (M­1.5= 4.82, M2= 3.94; F=5.43, α<.05), and language (M­1.5= 5.4, M2= 4.15; F=9, α<.01) (see table 3).

Regression models with interactions support this pattern. In these models, generational interaction effect of different social structures on the original dependent variable (self-identity) was examined. Presented in table 4, several social structures were found significant in three categories: self-identity (language and self-identity), culture (social customs and accommodation style) and tradition (family life and values). The results suggest a negative relationship between both origin self-identity as well as origin cultural items and identification. That is, adolescents who are closer

Table 4. Interaction models of generation groups in social structures and identification



                    Identity Models









Language (Israel)



Self-identity (Israel)



Language (origin)



Self-identity (origin)



1.5 generation



1.5 generation



Language (Israel)*1.5 generation




Self-identity (Israel)*1.5 generation



Language (origin)*1.5 generation




Self-identity (origin)*1.5 generation



Adj. R2





*α≤0.05; **α<0.01



                      Culture Models









Social customs (Israel)



Accommodation (Israel)


Social customs (origin)



Accommodation (origin)



1.5 generation



1.5 generation



Social customs (Israel)*1.5 generation



Accommodation (Israel)*1.5 generation



Social customs (origin)*1.5 generation






Accommodation (origin)*1.5 generation





Adj. R2


Adj. R2



*α≤0.05; **α<0.01



                     Tradition Models









Family life (Israel)



Values (Israel)



1.5 generation



1.5 generation



Family life (Israel)*1.5 generation




Values (Israel)*1.5




Adj. R2


Adj. R2



*α≤0.05; **α<0.01

to their origin language, self-identity, social customs and accommodation styles tend to identify less as Israelis. In addition to these main effects, an interaction between Israeli language and generational groups indicates that the effect of Israeli language on self-identity is stronger for 1.5 generation adolescents than for second generation adolescents. That is, while second generation adolescents do not differ in their identification according different levels of Hebrew language, 1.5’s who declare their main language to be Hebrew tend to identify as Israeli more than 1.5’s who declare that Hebrew is not their main language.

In the interaction models we found main effect for the relation between generation group and identification. For both values and family life, 1.5 generation adolescents tend to identify more using origin labels. An interaction effect in the Israeli value social structure indicates similar pattern as the effect of language. That is, the proximity of 1.5’s to Israeli values affects their self-identity (while 2nd generation adolescents’ identity is not affected by this structure).

The interaction models and anova analysis suggest that different social structures explain differences in the formation of identity between 1.5 and second generation. Language and value are two social structures that demonstrate how social structures influence differently 1.5 and 2nd generation adolescents’ identity.


Our findings suggests that as hypothesized, the largest group of 1.5 and second generation adolescence hold bi-cultural identities, as they identify both with their parents’ country of origin and with the host country, Israel. Each generation shows unique pattern of identification, with 1.5’s more identified with their country of origin and second generation identifying more with Israel. Employing a socio-cultural perspective on identity formation, the results indicate that social structures play an important role in the identity formation of immigrant adolescents. However, language is the social structure that has the most significant influence on both groups.

The bi-cultural aspect that we discovered in both groups highlights the dual identity of children of immigrants, whether they were born in Israel or abroad. Yet, this duality is not contradictory - the children incorporate both Israeli and origin social structures - such as: friendships, communication style, and world views - into their identity. It is evident that there is a gap between their experiences in their local community and those in school. Many of these adolescents live in predominantly de facto migrant segregated communities (The communities are comprised of predominantly migrants but those migrants emigrated from many different source countries and maintain many different migration statuses.) However, in school and in scouting (common for children in Israel) they experience heterogeneous environments (children of migrants from different backgrounds and Israeli Jewish children), providing experiences in Israeli-style friendships, interactions and perspectives. Thus, the children live in two different ‘worlds’, Israeli and origin country, with minimum direct conflict.

When considering the general patterns of identity formation, the second generation adolescents show less strictness and more variation than those of the 1.5 adolescents. Compared with the 1.5 generation, less social structures were found significant and the pattern of bi-cultural – based on the Israeli identity – was less distinct for second generation adolescents. These findings go beyond the traditional assimilation model to indicate that the process of identification is more complex and dynamic. No direct line can be drawn here since although second generation adolescents tend more than 1.5’s to identify with Israel, they also were less confident in their pattern of identity formation.

This study focused on children of migrant workers in Israel. It yielded important insights regarding the identification patterns. First, we found interesting pattern in the “employment activity” social structure for the second generation adolescents. As most social structures indicate consistent identification patterns (country of origins, Israel, both, or neither), the “employment activity” structure shows mixed patterns. Second generation adolescents identify their employment activities both with Israel and the country of origin, and at the same time they identify with neither of the countries. At first glance, this pattern seems contradictory. Yet, upon consideration, it is understandable: these children are branded as children of migrant workers and seen as migrant workers, even though they are not. This mixed pattern reveals both the ambivalent feelings of second generation adolescents towards the status of “migrant workers” and their self-identification as Israelis.

This duality mirrors the heated public debates regarding the legal status, the ability for permanence and even a name for these children in Israel. One of the leading anti-deportation organizations is called “Israeli Children”[7] as a reflection of “the fact that the children are just that, Israeli children, Hebrew is their mother tongue and they are educated and socialized in the Israeli public school system. The children celebrate Israeli holidays, and have never lived anywhere else other than Israel”. Interestingly, this conflict does not appear in the 1.5 generation adolescents group - neither in the identification pattern of the children nor in the public debate. This group is almost entirely missing from the public discourse regarding migrant children, mainly due to the fact that these children, unlike the previous group do not qualify for the “Israeli” standard and the terminology that is used to support their case. Furthermore, the pattern of “employment activity” is different among 1.5 children compared to the second generation. 1.5’s show only a bi-cultural pattern of identification with employment activities, without the “neither here nor there” pattern, indicating a combination between Israeli and country of origin tendencies.

Religion also plays a significant role in identity formation. Most of the adolescents, from both generations, identify with the religious beliefs of their parents’ country of origin. This should not be surprising. However, for the second generation, this is the only significant issue of identification with the country of origin. This finding points to the important role of religious beliefs in the identity formation of adolescents in migration context (Sabar 2007; Levitt 2001; van der Veer 2001). This is even stronger for immigrants in Israeli context since being a Jew is the fundamental characteristic that links a person to the state and confers citizenship (Peled, 1992; Sabar 2004; 2007; Liebelt 2010; Raijman and Kemp 2004). The religious affiliation of the migrants (that is, not being Jewish) blocks their path to attaining Israeli citizenship and renders them outside of the citizenship community and at the bottom of the hierarchy of Israeli society (Harper and Zubida 2010a; Harper and Zubida 2010b; Shafir and Peled 2002; Kimmerling 2004; Kemp 2007; Raijman and Semyo­nov 2004; Bartram 2011).

This finding is especially interesting when considering the central role of Jewish religion in the social and cultural life in Israel. Thus, although not Jewish in their religion, these adolescents are exposed to Jewish religious customs in school, in the media and almost everywhere in the public sphere. When considering the findings regarding social structures such as social customs and world views, it can be suggested that Jewish religious customs are perceived by these adolescents as cultural more than religious. Indeed, in our analysis we observed that 1.5’s identified with both Israel and country of origin’s social customs and world views. Second generation adolescents showed Israeli identification pattern consistent with social customs and bi-cultural (both Israeli and country of origin) identification with world views. Although it is almost impossible for these children to convert, as conversion is hard to achieve in Israel, the children incorporate the learned religious customs and practices into their own cultural customs and world views, thus creating a hybrid cultural identity which comprise both Jewish (Israeli) and origin factors, which is consistent with Sabar findings (2007).

Language is the mediator of all other social activities, thus it is not surprising that those who identify with their country of origin also prefer their origin language and those who identify as Israelis prefer Hebrew. Language has already been recognized as an important factor in ethnic self-identification (Pinney et al. 2001; Haller and Landolt 2005; Rumbaut 2005a; Zhou 1997a). The segmented assimilation theory emphasizes language retention in the development of ethnic identity among children of immigrants (Haller and Landolt 2005). Studies of children from immigrant families in the United States show that only 30% of the 1.5’s prefer English, compared with 50% of second generation adolescents. These studies also reveal that although over the years more children shift to English, the proportion of second generation adolescents preferring this language is significantly larger (Rumbaut 2005a). Children of immigrants face constant pressure from teachers, the media, the public and sometimes even their parents, to become proficient in the host-country language. At the same time, they face pressure to preserve and maintain their mother tongue and their ethnic culture. These children, sometimes serving as their parents or family’s interpreters appreciate that in some cases knowledge of the mother tongue opens paths for social capital within their ethnic community and within the host country as well (Zhou 1997a).

Language remained the dominant, social structure affecting identity for both 1.5 and second generation adolescents. Further, language affects all other social structures and thus is a central factor through which identity formation transpires. Language was the element that tied the 1.5’s to identify with the country of origin and the second generation identity with Israel.

Our results point to the complex dynamics of migrant adolescents’ identity formation as they perpetually juggle between different cultural and social worlds. As our results reveal, identity is not an “either or” experience, and for that reason we propose a hybrid perspective to explain identity formation among adolescent children of migrants. This perspective suggests that the identity formation of children of immigrants should not be divided to simplistic labels. Instead, identity formation among these adolescents should be perceived as a continuous process combining influences of the host country, the origin country, both of them or neither of them.

The complex picture emerging from the findings testifies to the complexity of the study of identity formation among children of immigrants. It further supposes that there are many more issues than time in country or birth in country as important for incorporation. Examining the role of social structures such as pace of life, culture, religion and language on the identity formation in both 1.5 and second generation adolescents groups, we have identified several significant factors affecting the identities of children of migrants.

Concluding remarks

Children of immigrants navigate through multiple social and cultural worlds while forming their identities. The combination we found of bicultural identity and tendency towards host or origin country point to the fact that static categorization of identity is insufficient to understand the identity formation of migrant adolescents. Children of immigrants, juggling between different norms, customs, languages and cultures, develop flexible identities into which they incorporate host and origin social structures in various ways.

From an assimilative perspective, second generation adolescents tend more than 1.5’s to identify with Israeli social structures. A pure assimilationist perspective emphasizes the bicultural tendency, but overlooks the origin state tendency of the 1.5’s and the host state tendency of the second generation adolescents. As our data reveals, both exhibit some degree of bicultural tendency. We attribute this tendency to the shared culture-socio experience and immigration status of the 1.5’s and the second generation. Thus, we argue that a hybrid perspective is needed in order to fully understand the complexity of identity formation in adolescents from migrant background. This perspective can reveal that in the dynamic formation of identity, adolescents of each group move in different directions: 1.5 generation move between bi-cultural and origin identity continuum while the second generation move between bi-cultural and Israeli (host state) ones. Thus, instead of conceiving these identities as fixed, static and separate constructs, a hybrid perspective reveals them as dynamic and flexible movements through which an identity is being formed.

This study offers a first step in the incorporation of a hybrid perspective into the field of migration studies. We anticipate that examining various case studies, in different contexts and in different migration situations through a hybrid perspective will aid us in reveal the dynamic of identity formation in 1.5 and second generation adolescents. Future research that follows migrant adolescents into adulthood and incorporates a hybrid perspective to understand the identity process could be a future step indicated by this research.



[1] Drawing on Edelstein’s (2003) acculturation continuum of immigrant adolescents, De La Rosa posits the following.

[2] Israel unlike the origin countries of the migrants, mostly from Asia, Africa and east Europe, has adopted values that closer to the American-European values – hence they will be tested as such.

[3] This measure identifies acculturation pattern through measuring two basic dimensions of acculturation: (1) maintenance of heritage culture, and (2) maintenance of the receiving culture. The measure includes 21 items assessing practices (e.g., language use, food, friends); values and identification across both heritage and receiving cultures.

[4] A few NGO’s led by “Israeli Children” ( mobilized actions against the deportations.

[5] On each item, participants were asked to indicate the degree to which they are similar or dissimilar to the heritage culture (their parents’ culture of origin) and to the Israeli culture on a 7-point scale ranging from not at all (1) to extremely (7) . Internal consistency for the heritage culture scale and the receiving culture scale were high (Cronbachs α= .94 and .93, respectively). (Ward and Rana-Deuba 1999).

[6] All the result are significant α≤0.05.

[7] The Israeli Children web page can be found at:




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DOI: 10.12893/gjcpi.2013.1.6