Academic Achievement and Psychological Distress among Muslim Adolescents Attending Public High Schools
Oberoi, Ashmeet K.
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Islamic norms and Islamophobia present unique challenges for Muslim adolescents attending public high schools in United States. Yet, Muslim youth see Islam not just as religion but also as a guiding force and a way of life. Additionally, they negotiate multiple social identities based on race, ethnicity, social class, and gender.. This study addressed the question: What is the relationship between gender, religiosity, and acculturation of Muslim adolescents and their perceptions of three school contextual variables – perceived support from teachers, school structural support for religious practices, and acculturative hassles – to their academic achievement, educational aspirations, and psychological distress? Islamic religiosity was found to be significantly positively associated with both academic performance and educational expectations. American and native culture acculturation was positively associated with higher educational expectations. Female Muslim students reported performing academically just as well as their male cohorts and had comparable high educational and professional aspirations. Additionally, this study found that although most Muslim students reported experiencing a moderate to high number of hassles at school unique to their religion, they did not find them severe enough to affect their academic achievement and expectations. However, hassles were positively associated with psychological distress. Further, students reported receiving moderate to high teacher support from most of their teachers which was significantly associated to their academic achievement. The adolescents also report moderate levels of structural support at school for their religious practices. The findings of the study thus, augment as well as contradict prior literature. The above findings contradict literature that tends to emphasize underperformance of female Muslim students and lack of support from teachers in general. Further, the study findings elaborate the existing literature by establishing the positive link between religiosity and academic engagement, and number of acculturative hassles and higher psychological distress among high school Muslim students. The results of this study thus, underscore the importance of further research on the contribution of individual level coping and adaptation and the role of school context in the academic engagement and psychological adjustment of Muslim high school students. Several recommendations for future research with this hard to access population are also made.