Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
There are many prevention efforts that target refugee families, aiming to support parents’ and children’s mental health. However, many questions are yet to be answered about the support refugee families may need, especially along the different phases of refuge (e.g., displacement and resettlement). We used in-depth interviews to examine how different phases of refuge gave rise to different stressors that shape parents’ behaviors and cognitions. We interviewed 27 Syrian refugee parents recently settled in the Netherlands (16 families) twice. Using a grounded theory approach, we distinguished five phases (prewar, war, flight, displacement, and resettlement). Especially during flight and displacement, various stressors (e.g., financial and material losses) induced parental feelings of empathy for children’s suffering, increasing parental leniency. Other stressors (e.g., family separations) placed more duties on parents and increased the uncertainty families experienced, increasing parental psychological exhaustion and compromising parental warmth and sensitive discipline. While most families reacted fairly similarly to most stressors that came with war, flight, and displacement, families reacted very differently to post-migration stressors (e.g., acculturative stress) in resettlement. While some families experienced aspects of post-traumatic growth (e.g., increased compassion for their children) and were more autonomy supporting, other families considered their children’s perspective less, and were more controlling. Our findings suggest that psychological exhaustion plays a key role in shaping parenting during refuge, and that individual differences in post-traumatic growth play a key role in shaping parenting in resettlement. Finally, clinicians and intervention workers can better support refugee families by learning more about how the unique stressors shape parenting behaviors, along the refugee process and in resettlement.