Adolescents' information behavior when isolated from peer groups: Lessons from new immigrant adolescents' everyday life information seeking

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Problem Statement

Peers are important to adolescents. This salient feature of teenagers — the strong dependence on peers and the relative independence on the adult world is a natural and important phenomenon in the process of completing their developmental tasks (Scholte & Aken, 2006). In addition, in LIS research, it has been disclosed that teens regard their peers as their favorite and most valuable information source (Fisher et al, 2007; Huges-Hasseel & Agosto, 2007; Meyers et al, 2007).

However, for many reasons, adolescents can find themselves isolated from their peer groups. For example, young immigrant adolescents may find themselves isolated due to differences in culture, language, etc. When this happens, how do they compensate for this lost information source? New immigrant adolescents in the U.S. may experience difficulties in joining established social groups. This can result in a transitional period in which a peer group is unavailable to them. Previous research has shown that peer groups are an important information source for young people. How then, do new immigrant adolescents seek information to cope with their social isolation and other stressful life situations?

Method

To respond to these initial questions, this investigation employs intensive interviews with new immigrant adolescents in Tallahassee, Florida about their information world — what their daily life is like, how they cope with their daily problems, and how they find and use information sources in their daily life.

A purposive sample of immigrant adolescents 10-20 years old living in the Tallahassee, Florida area will be recruited using adult informants at local churches and schools. The degree of their social isolation and social support will be measured using the De Jong Giervard Loneliness Scale (Gierveld & Tilburg, 2006) and the Social Support Questionnaire (Sarason et al 1983; Sarson et al, 1987). Subjects who score high on the social isolation scale and low on the social support scale will be asked to participate in an intensive interview. A total of ten interviews are anticipated.

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Table 1. The Method to Select the Sample to Conduct Interview
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Intensive interviews with the selected subjects will explore isolated adolescents' information world. Interviews will be digitally recorded and transcripts will be analyzed using the constant comparative method.

Significance

This proposed study will provide an initial understanding of socially isolated young immigrants' information behavior in daily life. Findings will inform librarians, educators, and other professionals who work with youth. This data will provide input for the successful design and delivery of information services and instruction for youth and a basis from which to support healthy growth for adolescents seeking to fulfill their information needs without the help of peers. The results of the proposed study will fill a gap in the information seeking behavior related to both youth information seeking and the information needs of immigrants.

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