Ethnic identity negotiation among Sami youth living in a majority Sami community in Norway
OBJECTIVE The aim of the present study was to compare symptoms of anxiety and depression among indigenous Sami and non-Sami youth in the Arctic part of Norway, and to examine the influence of perceived discrimination and ethnic identity on these symptoms. The relationship between ethnic self-labeling and native language competence on internalization symptoms was explored for Sami adolescents. DESIGN The Norwegian Arctic Adolescent Health Study was conducted among 10th graders in junior high schools in North Norway in 2003-2005. The sample consisted of 4449 adolescents, of whom 450 (10%) were indigenous Sami and 3999 (90%) were non-Sami. Anxiety and depressive symptoms were assessed using a short version of the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-10. Participants also completed The Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) and a measure of perceived discrimination. RESULTS No differences were found among ethnic groups in internalization symptoms. Sami youth reported more discrimination than the non-Sami. Both MEIM and perceived discrimination were positively associated with internalization symptoms. Moreover, Sami youth who had not learned their native language at home were more vulnerable to experiencing internalization symptoms compared to Sami youth who had learned their native language at home. CONCLUSION Culture-specific protective factors were discussed as potential explanations for the similarities between Sami and non-Sami youth. The present study documented a relationship between internalization symptoms and ethnic identity, perceived discrimination, and language loss. These findings could be understood as consequences of the recent colonial history and oppression of the indigenous Sami.