Behavioural & Cognitive Sciences

Subjective well-being and identity construal in a changing world (SWITCH)

The increased diversification of populations has raised concerns regarding the ability of European societies to retain their identity. However, we know very little about the process of identity formation at the individual level in a diverse and multicultural context. The SWITCH research project looks into Luxembourg’s exceptional multicultural context to understand how, when and why nationality and origin become a salient part of identity construal.

Living in and with a multicultural society: Learning from Luxembourg

Even within a globalised world, Luxembourg holds an exceptional position with its super-diverse demographic composition and 47 per cent foreign population. The SWITCH project aims to understand how, when and why nationality and origin become a salient part of identity construal, and how this relates to well-being and academic achievement outcomes.

Luxembourg is a super-diverse country. Recent arrivals live alongside those who arrived one, two or several generations ago. Native Luxembourgers make up just under half of the population. Luxembourg no longer has a coherent majority culture. Foreigners are from an increasingly wide range of countries and differ greatly in terms of length of stay. One consequence of this multinational mix is a growing number of multinational families and children growing up in multinational households.

This complex environment may have consequences for identity construal. SWITCH seeks to understand the attitude to multicultural societies, especially from the perspective of the receiving society. The main focus lies, however, on the process of identity construal among adolescents growing up in Luxembourg, since adolescence is a formative time for reflection and identity development. Cultural contact, meeting people of different nationalities and backgrounds, and switching between languages are normal everyday occurrences. Yet research has shown that origin remains an important identifier category within diverse contexts.

The question of origin has diversified.

What are the consequences for the process of identity formation? Are inclusive or exclusive categories being formed? Research has also shown that there is more than one way of being bicultural. Which patterns are best for outcomes such as well-being and academic achievement, for whom and why? Answers to these questions have implications for building inclusive societies.

Diversity and identity – an emerging field

Globalisation brings people closer together – but the new closeness may also bring misunderstandings and conflict. Some concern about the increased diversification focuses on the impossibility of European societies retaining their identity – yet we know very little about the process of (national) identity formation at individual level in increasingly diverse settings. This research project aims to fill this gap. By studying the identity construal process in young people growing up in a super-diverse environment we hope to learn about the conditions that are conducive to positive outcomes in terms of identity formation, well-being and academic achievement.
A multi-method approach

The complex question of identity construal will be considered using a multi-method approach. Students attending secondary schools in Luxembourg will be assessed using questionnaires, interviews and the eDiary method. The self lives through the other and therefore studying the self in context is important. The role of parents in the identity process, in particular parental cultural value transmission, will also be explored. The school context as a formative framework will also be taken into consideration.

People related to this project