Perceptions and Experiences of Pakistani-Descent Female Adolescents on Developing Sexuality and its Relation to Psychological Wellbeing

  • Author / Creator
    Punjani, Neelam Saleem
  • Background: The sexual health needs of female immigrant adolescents in Canada have been largely unmet and have increased in magnitude over the last few years. For immigrant female adolescents of Pakistani descent, who are also considered racialized youth in Canada, the silence around issues of sexuality needs can affect their physical, emotional, and sexual health and well-being, and ability to reach their full potential. Evidence suggests that immigrant adolescents lack sexual and reproductive health knowledge and use fewer sexual health-related services and sex education resources than do non-immigrant youth. In Pakistani immigrant adolescents, this difference appears to be associated with socio-cultural and religious practices.
    Purpose: The overarching purpose of this dissertation is to contribute towards improving sexual health of female immigrant adolescents living in Canada. The purpose of this study was to qualitatively explore the experience of developing sexuality and its relationship to developing identity and well-being in middle- to late- female adolescents of Pakistani-descent, living in a large urban area in Canada. This study sought to create space for dialogue and to explore the perceived cultural influence on issues of sexuality that often arise among individuals from different cultural backgrounds using the postmodern feminist lens.
    Methods: An interpretive descriptive methodology complemented by an art-based strategy involving drawing timelines was employed. A purposive sample of 21 female adolescents who were of first- or second-generation Pakistani-descent was recruited. Data was collected using a semi-structured interview guide and having participants create a relevant timeline. This dissertation consists of four related papers: (i) a scoping review of associations between developing sexuality and mental health in heterosexual adolescents based on evidence from lower- and middle-income countries; (ii) a methodology paper on using timeline methodology to facilitate qualitative interviews that explored sexuality experiences of Pakistani-descent female immigrant adolescent; and (iii) a qualitative paper on the perceptions and experiences of Pakistani-descent female adolescents on developing sexuality and self-identity, and (iv) a qualitative paper exploring the interplay between developing sexuality and well-being in the context of Pakistani-descent adolescents.
    Findings: Participants included female adolescents aged from ages 14 to 19 years. A total of 21 first interview and 7 follow up interviews were completed. The narratives and timelines presented in this study tell the stories of the participants, reflecting the complexities of female adolescents’ sexuality and how they perceive and attribute meanings to their experiences. The main findings of this exploration were: a) the intersection of gender and patriarchy have created layers of power and oppression in adolescent lives that tightly control their sexuality, b) silences around all aspects of female sexuality negatively affect the capacity for desire and pleasure; and c) living in a bicultural world can cause significant stress and anxiety among female adolescents, especially when making personal life decisions related to sexuality
    Conclusion: This dissertation provides a rich in-depth exploration of female adolescents’ experiences of developing sexuality and demonstrates the complex interaction of factors that influence female adolescents’ behavior related to sexuality and sexual health. These stories demonstrate not only the need for cultural awareness while approaching each girl’s experience, but also considering intersectionality factors such as race, ethnicity, culture, and religion. This study provides implications to policymakers to revise existing policies and create youth-friendly policies for immigrant youth to draw attention to the hidden voices of female adolescents and increase awareness about ways to address issues arising in evolving sexuality.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.