What Determines Refugee Resilience?
An exploratory, action research approach was used with adult Karen-Refugees (n = 26) separated by sex (male/female) in focus group sessions. The aim of the study was to explore a cultural-, context-specific definition of resilience and the factors that may contribute to resilience in resettlement using an ecological framework. In vivo coding techniques were used resulting in several themes. Results suggested a definition of resilience that encompassed a sense of gratitude, positive outlook, and resourcefulness; demonstrating a strong work ethic and perseverance, and moving towards a sense of community and belonging. Factors contributing to resilience in resettlement include language and availability of resources, the importance and value of education, the availability of other resources in the community (e.g., employment), a supportive civil society, special care for the elderly, and opportunities for the exhibition of cultural pride, and preservation, which lead to a sense of community and belonging. Implications for prevention and intervention services are discussed along with contributions to literature pertaining to international psychology, resilience, and refugee research.
Lopez, Dixelia, Resilience in the Karen-Refugee Population from Myanmar/Burma Resettled in the U.S.: An Exploratory Study. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, 2016.
Social Capital is Key
Observing Colorado refugees over a period of 5 years, the Refugee Survey & Evaluation (RISE) Study finds a correlation between a refugee’s social capital – defined as the level of integration and participation in the new community – and well-being. Quote: […] those [refugees] with low integration repeatedly related experiences of isolation. Most felt safe at home, but they resisted venturing outside the home, where the world felt unfamiliar and unsafe. Although older respondents seemed to brighten when discussing excursions they took through church or adult daycare, these experiences were limited to once or twice a week.
Lichtenstein, G., Puma, J., Engelman, A., Miller, M. (2016). The Refugee Survey & Evaluation (RISE) Study, Year 5: Final Report—A Study of Refugee Integration in Colorado.Unpublished technical report (pp. 1-126). Bluff, Utah, USA: Quality Evaluation Designs.
UK Study: Language Competency Correlates with Social Capital
Social networks emerge as particularly important in relation to health and language ability. The more networks refugees possess the better their language competency. For women their language skills are better when they associate with out-groups, while for men contact with friends and relatives. Possession of social networks is important for emotional health. In addition the more contact that refugees have with friends and family the healthier they are. There is clear evidence in our analysis of the importance of financial resources and language competency in integration. Those with good language skills were likely to fare better in almost every domain while those with financial problems were likely to fare worse. Given the importance of language to integration, and literacy to social mobility, it is particularly worrying that despite refugees placing so much value on language competency many refugees with poor language skills were not accessing training or found that training did not help them develop the employment language they need. (..). Evidence from our findings supports the case for improving access to integration initiatives for refugees, making changes to asylum and family reunion policy and prioritizing groups that are multiply disadvantaged
Sin Yi Cheung, Social networks, social capital and refugee integration, Research Report for Nuffield Foundation, 2013.
The Negative Impact of Social Capital
The major finding in this research is the negative effect of sponsorship status on the earnings of female refugees in their most recent year of work.(…) My observations indicate that female reunification case refugees not only experience real costs associated with using social capital, but also could take advantage of non-pecuniary benefits unavailable to female free case refugees. For example, female reunification case refugees frequently acknowledged expectations from their social ties regarding responsibility for child care and help with household chores for extended family members and friends that their free case counterparts did not. While these obligations constrained the amount of time that reunification case females could participate in the labor market, it also resulted in a more satisfying social life and allowed them to request reciprocation from their social ties when they needed child care and other types of assistance in their households. In contrast, free case females were typically on their own when arranging and paying for childcare, and performing household chores. How female reunification case refugees valued reciprocal contributions from social ties and how researchers should factor these contributions into analyses of the effects of social capital on the lives of refugees are open questions that a more comprehensive study must address.
Ryan Allen, Benefit or Burden? Social Capital, Gender, and the Economic Adaptation of Refugees, The International Migration Review, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Summer 2009), pp. 332-365