Migrant Women's Life Narratives - Paths to Achieving a Strong Soc in the Face of Migration and Acculturation

Monday, 11 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 32 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Jasmijn SLOOTJES, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
Saskia KEUZENKAMP, Movisie - Netherlands Centre for Social Development, Netherlands
Sawitri SAHARSO, VU University Amsterdam, Netherlands
Migrant women have the highest incidence of mental health problems in the Netherlands. Whereas previous studies mainly looked into the wide variety of risk factors this group is exposed to, we will take a salutogenic approach and look at how migrant women manage to maintain good mental health while facing stressors related to migration and acculturation. We do so by using the theoretical framework of the Sense of Coherence (SoC). SoC is a general orientation to life which consists out of 3 components; comprehensibility, manageability and meaningfulness. In a review of over 300 studies SoC was found to be a strong predictor of mental health. Hence, it is important to understand how a strong SoC is developed when trying to understand mental health problems among migrant women. The current literature on SoC mostly focuses on the consequences of SoC and uses almost exclusively quantitative methods. The aim of this study is therefore both empirical and methodological; Firstly, we study the development of a strong SoC through life narratives with a special focus on the impact of migration and acculturation. Secondly, we discuss the benefits of using narrative analysis when studying SoC. Through life narratives, migrant women can create coherence and meaning in their lives despite the experience of migration, acculturation and often a lack of decision power in these major life events. The intricate relation between the ability of individuals to create coherent and meaningful life narratives and SoC are discussed. We achieve these aims through biographical life interviews with native Dutch, Surinamese, and first and second generation Turkish and Moroccan women living in the Netherlands (N=50).