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Youth Research

Current Research

The lives of American Muslim youth are complex and impacted by numerous intersecting factors, such as race/ethnicity, family, peers, school, community, and the socio-cultural environment they are living within. To design more effective programming, prevention, and interventions efforts for American Muslim youth, it is important to understand their environment, the challenges and opportunities they encounter, and what factors influence their decisions. Greater knowledge about these factors can promote positive youth development and strengthen young people within their families, schools, and community contexts.

American Muslim Youth: Challenges, Research, and Opportunities

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Hanan Hashem, MA, Sadiq Patel, MSW, Mona Abo-Zena, PhD, Maha Ezzeddine, MA. 

Youth ResearchThis project aims to survey current research on American Muslim youth. This study identifies and highlights the unique intersection of numerous racial, cultural, and national identities, geographical contexts, and socio-economic contexts. Findings will be used to integrate research, offer recommendations for best practices to promote youth development across diverse settings: family, school, and community.

American Muslim Youth Risk Behaviors

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Sameera Ahmed, PhD

Youth ResearchThe prevalence of American Muslim college student’s substance use (alcohol, drugs, tobacco/hookah), pre-marital sex, and gambling are assessed through this research project. Risk factors, as well as protective factors in young American Muslim’s environments, are also explored, as well as implications for future research and intervention. Findings will be used to integrate research and offer recommendations for best practices to promote positive youth development and the development of preventative programming.

Collaborators in this area of study include Cynthia Arfken, PhD (Wayne State University), and Wahiba Abu-Ras, PhD (Adelphi University).

Black Muslim Youth

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Sameera Ahmed, PhD, Mona Abo-Zena, PhD. 

Youth ResearchAs members of both racially and religiously stigmatized groups, Black Muslim youth must navigate daily through the intersection between their racial identity, religious values, and diverse contexts (cultural, religious, neighborhood, geography, etc.). How do these multiple identities impact the lives of young Black Muslims? What are the unique issues and experiences that must be acknowledged and addressed to promote the positive youth development of Black Muslim youth?

This project looks at the varying factors contributing to Black Muslim youth development, explores issues of identity, relationships (family, peer, community), experiences of discrimination and institutionalized oppression, as well as historical trauma that continues to impact the psyche of young Black Muslim youth. Recommendations for promoting culturally and religiously appropriate youth interventions will be provided.

Collaborators in this area of study include Farah Khan, MA (New York University), Cynthia Arfken, PhD (Wayne State University).

Convert Muslim Youth

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Sameera Ahmed, PhD, Hanan Hashem, MA, Saara Patel, MSW.

Youth ResearchAdolescence and emerging adulthood is a period often associated with the exploration of one’s values and beliefs. As a result, an increasing number of young people report religious conversion. Little is known about young people who choose to convert to Islam, an increasingly stigmatized religion within the American socio-political context. What are the challenges experienced by young converts to Islam? How can families, friends, and communities better support their development as they integrate into families, religious communities, and social networks. This study explores the experiences of young American Muslim converts and the factors resulting in conversion, changes in relationships (parents, friends, peers), as well as struggles with identity, race, and gender.

This project aims to identify challenges, coping methods, and recommendations to better support young American Muslim converts.   

Immigrant Muslim Youth

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Mona Abo-Zena, PhD

Youth Research“How are immigrant children like all other children, and how are they unique? What challenges as well as what opportunities do their circumstances present for their development? What characteristics are they likely to share because they have immigrant parents, and what characteristics are unique to specific groups of origin? How are children of first-generation immigrants different from those of second-generation immigrants? Transitions offers comprehensive coverage of the field’s best scholarship on the development of immigrant children, providing an overview of what the field needs to know — or at least systematically begin to ask — about the immigrant child and adolescent from a developmental perspective.”

Collaborators in this area of study include Carola Suárez-Orozco, PhD (University of California – LA), Amy K. Marks, PhD (Suffolk University), Carolyn McNamara Barry, PhD (Loyola University).

  • Transitions: The development of children immigrants, edited by Mona Abo-Zena, Carola Suárez-Orozco, and Amy K. Marks.
  • Abo-Zena, M. M. & Barry, C. (2013). Religion and immigrant-origin youth: Both a resource and a challenge. In A. Marks & M. M. Abo-Zena (Eds.). What we would have missed: Qualitative insights on the development of children in immigrant families. Research in Human Development 10(4), 353-371.
  • Marks, A. & Abo-Zena, M. M. (Eds). (2013). What we would have missed: Qualitative insights on the development of children in immigrant families. [Special Issue] Research in Human Development 10(4).

Identity Development of Muslim Youth

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Madiha Tahseen, PhD, Mona Abu-Zena, PhD, Sameera Ahmed, PhD. 

Youth ResearchAs Muslim youth come of age in the American cultural context, they are caught up in the balance between their American, Muslim, and ethnic or racial identities. How do they navigate the intersections of all of their social identities, in a way that is beneficial for their overall well-being and development? Although current literature suggests that a bi-cultural profile is the healthiest for adolescents from diverse backgrounds, our understanding of how American Muslim youth specifically balance all of their social identities is limited. Secondly, it is important to also examine which type of identity profile is the healthiest for American Muslim youth, especially as they come of age in the current heated socio-political context.

Collaborators in this area of study include Charissa S.L. Cheah, PhD (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Carolyn McNamara Barry, PhD (Loyola University), and Cynthia Arfken, PhD (Wayne State University).

Racial and Ethnic Discrimination – Issues of American Muslim Youth

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Sameera Ahmed, PhD, Sawssan Ahmed, PhD.

Youth ResearchNegative experiences, such as discrimination, may impact the process of identity formation within emerging adults by pushing them towards/away from their cultural or religious group. High levels of perceived discrimination have been reported among Muslim youth and findings show that adolescents who report experiencing racism report more psychological difficulties. However, adolescents who report that they use the cultural resources of ethnic identity, religious coping, and religious support report fewer psychological difficulties. These research studies explore the issues and protective factors of Muslim youth with regard to racism and discrimination.

Collaborators in this area of study include Cynthia Arfken, PhD (Wayne State University), Wahiba Abu-Ras, PhD (Adelphi University), Maryam Kia-Keating, PhD (University of California, Santa Barbara), Katherine H. Tsai, PhD (University of California, Los Angeles). 

Ramadan ESM Study

The Family and Youth Institute Researchers: Madiha Tahseen, PhD

Does Ramadan Serve as a Naturalistic Intervention to Promote Muslim American Adolescents’ Daily Virtues? Evidence from a Three Wave Experience Sampling Study. The goal of this study was to examine whether Ramadan heightens Muslim American adolescents’ connectedness to Allah, self-control, patience, and compassion. Using the experience sampling method, adolescents were prompted to complete three daily surveys for a week before, during, and after Ramadan.

Collaborators include Merve Balkaya-Ince, PhD and Sarah Schnitker, PhD (Baylor University), and Osman Umarji, PhD (Yaqeen Institute)

  • Tahseen, M., Balkaya-Ince., M., & Yilmaz, Z. (August, 2023). Religious coping, guilt and shame: Evidence from ESM study among Muslim American adolescents. Paper presentation submitted as part of a symposium, American Muslim Youth: Diversity and Context for annual APA convention, Washington, D.C.
  • Balkaya-Ince, M., Tahseen, M., Umarji, O., & Schnitker, S. A. (2023) Does Ramadan serve as a naturalistic intervention to promote Muslim American adolescents’ daily virtues? Evidence from a three-wave experience sampling study. The Journal of Positive Psychology, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2023.2169631.

Check out our Podcast for some conversations about key findings from the study! 

List of Publications on Youth

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Selected Academic Presentations

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).