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Psychosocial Wellness of Refugees

Psychosocial Wellness of Refugees: Issues in Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Frederick L. Ahearn Editor
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 251
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  • Book Info
    Psychosocial Wellness of Refugees
    Book Description:

    In recent years, scholars in the fields of refugee studies and forced migration have extended their areas of interest and research into the phenomenon of displacement, human response to it, and ways to intervene to assist those affected, increasingly focusing on the emotional and social impact of displacement on refugees and their adjustment to the traumatic experiences. In the process, the positive concept of "psychosocial wellness" was developed as discussed in this volume. In it noted scholars address the strengths and limitations of their investigations, citing examples from their work with refugees from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Palestine, Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, Eastern Europe, Bosnia, and Chile. The authors discuss how they define "psychosocial wellness," as well as the issues of sample selection, measurement, reliability and validity, refugee narratives and "voices," and the ability to generalize findings and apply these to other populations. The key question that has guided many of these investigations and underlies the premise of this book is "what happens to an ordinary person who has experienced an extraordinary event?" This volume also highlights the fact that those involved in such research must also deal with their own emotional responses as they hear victims tell of killing, torture, humiliation, and dispossesion. The volume will therefore appeal to practitioners of psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing, and anthropology. However, its breadth and the evaluation of the strengths and disadvantages of both qualitative and quantitative methods also make it an excellent text for students.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-804-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-xi)
    Frederick L. Ahearn Jr.
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xii-xiv)
    Barbara Harrell-Bond

    This book represents abenchmarkin academic publication on the psychological consequences for people who have been uprooted against their will. The editor, Frederick Ahearn, has brought together some of the most well-known researchers in refugee studies from a number of disciplinary backgrounds to discuss how they have met the challenges of researching in this cross-cultural, comparative field. This book will soon be required reading for mental health practitioners and all who conduct research on refugees, for one reason especially—its emphasis onwellnessrather thanpathology. As such, it will act as a profoundly important corrective to much of...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Frederick L. Ahearn Jr.

    The idea for this book came about in 1996 as a result of a discussion with several associates of the Refugee Studies Programme (RSP) at Queen Elizabeth House, University of Oxford, about the increased awareness of and interest in providing psychological assistance to refugees. So, when I was asked to plan and direct the weekly RSP Seminar Series that treated current topics of interest to the university community about refugees and forced migrants, I accepted the offer with the idea that a full exploration and discussion of the subject of refugee mental health would clarify a number of issues, especially...

  7. Part I: Theoretical Issues in Qualitative and Quantitative Research

    • [Part I: Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      The purpose of this section is to review the broad issues in the use of qualitative and quantitative methodologies that are used to study the question of refugee psychosocial wellness. In the first chapter, Frederick Ahearn explores through searches of various psychological databases the meaning of psychosocial well-being as currently used by researchers. Given the currency of the psychodynamic approach in these publications, he addresses the dimensions of stress, loss, social supports, separation, trauma, and coping and discusses difficulties in doing cross-cultural investigations using Western concepts and instruments. In addition, he identifies the strengths and weaknesses that are inherent in...

    • 1 Psychosocial Wellness: Methodological Approaches to the Study of Refugees
      (pp. 3-23)
      Frederick L. Ahearn Jr.

      There has been considerable interest in the plight of refugees, especially how they cope with the effects of forced migration. Researchers have been keen to answer the question, “How does an ordinary person experience an extraordinary event?” This increased interest in mental health concerns of displaced persons is evidenced by the large number of publications in professional journals about emotional and physical behavior within their home countries, in flight, in camps, and in countries where they resettle. With this increased interest has come the question about how best to measure the psychological and somatic consequences of displacement, and what the...

    • 2 Psychosocial Programs: Principles and Practice for Research and Evaluation
      (pp. 24-38)
      Alastair Ager

      Research and evaluation is crucial in the field of psychosocial intervention if we are to move on from the situation where the principal driving force for program developments “remains concern rather than reasoned extrapolation from rigorous empirical study” (Ager, 1994). Recent years have seen a welcome increase in the documentation of projects in this field (e.g. Agger, 1995; Tolfree, 1995), but the rapid escalation of interest in the area renders a firm foundation for program planning and implementation vital.

      It is clear that to facilitate the identification and replication of good practice there needs to be commitment to the open...

  8. Part II: Case Studies of Refugee Psychosocial Wellness:: Qualitative Approaches

    • [Part II: Introduction]
      (pp. 39-40)

      In this part, we turn our attention to the key dimensions of qualitative research of refugee psychosocial wellness, which aims at exploring the world from the perspective of the person studied, “the insider’s view.” Qualitative investigations are inherently different from quantitative studies: different assumptions, different processes to construct and establish “the truth,” and different ways to categorize information and make conclusions. The role of the qualitative researcher, as we will see from the following chapters, is to become immersed into a community in order to discover its values, norms, standards, rituals, relationships, and interactions, and ultimately the meanings of these....

    • 3 Qualitative Measures and Refugee Research: The Case of Afghan Refugees
      (pp. 41-66)
      Patricia A. Omidian

      There has been much debate, both in the literature and in the classroom, about the merits of quantitative versus qualitative research. Qualitative research methods are usually seen in opposition to or even as less rigorous than quantitative research, but the best research includes both. The hallmark of qualitative research is not the use of a single method for data collection and analysis, but the researcher’s use of multiple methods of gathering data and on-going analysis. This process uncovers a different type of data from that of strictly statistical methodologies, which focus on broader, less contextual issues. The purpose of this...

    • 4 Refugees and Health: Ethnographic Approaches
      (pp. 67-87)
      Marita Eastmond

      Refugee health, as a rapidly growing field of research and clinical practice, is predominantly a discourse of the medical and behavioral sciences, and one grounded in Western theories and methods. One methodological tradition is primarily empirical and quantitative, such as epidemiological surveys or psychometric instruments developed for the clinical interview or to screen for mental health problems. Others, in particular psychodynamic theory and therapeutic practice, have more of a qualitative and interpretative approach, focusing on the individual or the family in intensive and long-term interaction and dialogue to restore social functioning and health. As such, they are epistemologically more akin...

    • 5 The Autobiographical Method of Investigating the Psychosocial Wellness of Refugees
      (pp. 88-102)
      Didier Bertrand

      This chapter is the result of my research carried out with refugees who were awaiting transit and resettlement from a camp in Thailand. The purpose of the research was to understand the dynamics of social and identity restructuring in the camps as the roles that refugees played were changed and altered. I will examine in this chapter the methodological and ethical issues in controlling and analyzing the interactions that take place during biographical interviews between a researcher and an informant. These interactive elements are an integral part of the research process, which need to be taken into account in order...

  9. Part III: Case Studies of Refugee Psychosocial Wellness:: Quantitative Approaches

    • [Part III: Introduction]
      (pp. 103-104)

      In this section, we turn our attention to the use of primarily quantitative methods in order to investigate the psychosocial wellness of refugees. The literature concerning refugees is replete with studies that attempt to understand the psychological consequences of forced migration and its traumatic experiences and to explain the factors that lead to health adjustment in the aftermath of the experience. The next three chapters reveal distinct ways to tackle the study of refugee wellness.

      In chapter 6, the reader encounters the investigations of Raija- Leena Punamäki whose purpose is to link political reality with psychological processes as she studies...

    • 6 Measuring Suffering: Conflicts and Solutions in Refugee Studies
      (pp. 105-130)
      Raija-Leena Punamäki

      This chapter introduces my research experiences among Palestinian women, children, and political ex-prisoners and discusses some conflicting issues. First, I will present our research settings and questions and explore the theoretical models that depict the links between the sociopolitical reality and psychological experience. Then, I will respond to the critics of psychological research on traumatized refugees who object to it on political, ethical, and scientific grounds. They argue that the applied models ignore human resourcefulness, cultural diversity, and political context. My response is that psychosocial well-being is also a victim’s human right. Research can expand our knowledge about the processes...

    • 7 Use of Census Data for Research on Refugee Resettlement in the United States: Methodological Strengths and Limitations
      (pp. 131-152)
      Miriam Potocky-Tripodi

      Despite its heritage as nation of immigrants, the United States has an extremely limited systematic collection of immigration data (Levine, Hill, and Warren, 1985). It has been noted that, “There have not been innovative efforts to collect survey data on a scale comparable to those launched to study other national issues … This leaves the census as the major, and often the only, source of data for the study of contemporary immigration” (Hirschman, 1994, p. 710). Consequently, there have been a large number of studies using census data to examine diverse aspects of immigration such as variations in language usage...

    • 8 Returnees to Vietnam: The Well-Being of Former Unaccompanied Minors
      (pp. 153-176)
      Maryanne Loughry and Nguyen Xuan Nghia

      Vietnamese refugees first fled Vietnam in 1975 with the fall of Saigon. Subsequently more than one million people fled, and resettled in other countries. In 1988 in Hong Kong and 1989 in Southeast Asian countries, it was determined that the Vietnamese who were still leaving Vietnam would be screened individually for refugee status and given the right to appeal before being eligible for resettlement. This arrangement became known as the Comprehensive Plan of Action (CPA), and the Vietnamese were held in detention centers in asylum countries while awaiting their refugee status determination. Under the CPA more than 150,000 Vietnamese people...

  10. Part IV: Case Studies of Refugee Psychosocial Wellness:: Mixed Approaches

    • [Part IV: Introduction]
      (pp. 177-178)

      In this final section we present three chapters that utilize both quantitative and qualitative methods to explore the psychological dimension of refugee flight and migration. One approach is a careful consideration of context and culture, allowing for the “voices” of the refugees to inform the development of quantitative measures. The other approach is the use of alternative strategies to confirm findings, a process referred to as “triangulation.” The case examples in this part address both the development of instruments that are culturally and contextually sensitive, and the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods as a means of confirming the...

    • 9 Perceptions of Stress in Southeast Asian Refugee Youth: Implications for the Development of Culturally Appropriate Measures
      (pp. 179-193)
      Ilene Hyman, Morton Beiser, Sam Noh and Nhi Vu

      Clinical and research findings suggest that the risk of developing mental health problems such as alcohol abuse (Morgan, Wingard, and Felice, 1984), drug addiction (Amaral-Dias, Vicente, and Cabrita, 1981), delinquency and depression (Burke, 1982), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Kinzie, 1986; Sack, 1985), and psychopathology (Kinzie, Sack, and Angell, 1986) is higher for children in refugee families than for their host country counterparts. Explanations have tended to center on the direct experience of trauma such as warfare, loss, the danger of escape, and the depriving experiences of refugee camp incarceration. However, children born to refugee families in resettlement countries, or who migrate...

    • 10 A Child-Centered Approach to Investigating Refugee Children’s Concerns
      (pp. 194-207)
      Colin MacMullin and Maryanne Loughry

      Psychological interventions aimed at helping children who experience difficulties associated with forced migration require a substantial understanding of the inner concerns of these children. We really need to know precisely what it is that the children are worried about. Further, children’s own theories about how they best cope with difficult circumstances, and how other children might successfully manage similar concerns, also provide an important source of knowledge for both the researcher and the practitioner.

      However, to date, the study of children’s worries has typically centered around children’s responses to predetermined lists of eventsthought by researchersto be worrisome to...

    • 11 Qualitative and Quantitative Research among Hmong Refugees: An Analysis
      (pp. 208-233)
      Joseph Westermeyer

      This self-analysis of my work from the last three decades has the following goal: to assess the interplay between qualitative and quantitative methods used to study the Hmong people, their culture, and certain aspects of social adjustment and psychopathology. Initial work with the Hmong began in Laos during 1965 to 1975 (Westermeyer, 1971), and continued with Hmong refugees in United States from 1976 to the current time.

      Several mentors shaped this particular approach to melding qualitative and quantitative research. The first of these influences, throughout the 1960s, was my anthropology advisor, Perti Pelto, who emphasized two points:

      1. Inundate yourself in...

  11. Conclusions and Implications for Future Research
    (pp. 234-238)
    Frederick L. Ahearn Jr.

    The purpose of this volume has been the exploration of the psychological dimension of the refugee experience with a special interest in how this has been studied in the past and how research findings have added to our understanding of this problem and influenced policy and program planning and implementation in this area. There has been much debate in the refugee field about how to define the emotional problems that refugees face, what concepts to employ in order to understand and measure these reactions, and what methodological strategies should be used in this enterprise. In this volume, investigators with much...

  12. About the Contributors
    (pp. 239-244)
  13. Index
    (pp. 245-251)