Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Health

First Advisor's Name

Elena Bastida

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

William Darrow

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Jessy Devieux

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Richard Beaulaurier

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Mental health, Muslims, Islamophobia, identity struggle, qualitative, interviews, intersectionality, segmented assimilation

Date of Defense



This study extended prior research by Bandar Alsaif (2019) on Muslims in South Florida to identify their perceptions of health. Alsaif’s study found that young U.S.-born Muslim Americans reported higher mental distress and perception of being stereotyped and stigmatized than older Muslims. These results call for further investigation into the mental health of this population and exploration of their growing up experiences. Existing literature in this area is sparse. As such, this study aimed to explore the domains of identity struggle and perceptions of anti-Muslim attitudes (Islamophobia) as potential contributors to the reported poor mental health in young Muslim adults raised in the United States.

The first aim of this study was to further investigate underlying considerations behind young adult Muslims (ages 18–30) self-reported poor mental health in Alsaif’s study. The second aim was to examine participants’ religious identity struggle and its relevance to the construction of stressful discriminatory experiences. The third aim was to explore this population’s perception of how they had experienced and responded to Islamophobic encounters. In-depth interviews were used in investigating all three aims.

Themes and related subthemes that emerged regarding mental health were related to negative feelings, perceptions of parents’ views on mental health and professional mental health therapy, and the need for Islamic-based psychotherapy. Moreover, themes emerged regarding factors contributed to identity struggles ranged from those related to cultural surface structures, namely, names and clothes (hijab), to ones related to deeper domains embedded within deep cultural structures such as desensitization; assimilation (i.e., passing as Whites or Latinx); intergenerational dynamics; and Black race. Additionally, emerging themes regarding Islamophobia and discrimination were related to violence as a Muslim stereotype, receiving physical and verbal attacks, and discriminative law enforcement figures.

As presented and discussed in this study, all these various domains intersect at some point, resulting in the isolation or stigmatization of the Muslim community as separate, strange, foreign, un-American, or dangerous. It is expected that results presented here will contribute to research on Muslim youth in the United States.




Included in

Public Health Commons



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