Effects of Displacement,Forced Migration, and Resettlement on Arab Family Relationships

Friday, 20 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Lynda ASHBOURNE, University of Guelph, Canada
Mohammed BAOBAID, Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration, Canada
Abir AL JAMAL, Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration, Canada
Abdallah BADAHDAH, Doha International Family Institute, Qatar
This qualitative research examines the subjective effects of displacement, forced migration, and resettlement on Arab family relationships. Interviews were conducted with 30 mothers and fathers who were displaced by war in Syria and Iraq, lived in transit countries for varying amounts of time, and arrived in Canada in the previous 7 years. They reflected on their family life in their country of origin before and during wartime, in transit countries, and post-migration. A thematic analysis of the interview data was guided by the principles of constructivist grounded theory methodology.

Identified themes suggest a complex intertwining of the following influences on family relationships over the course of displacement, migration, and resettlement: (i) dramatic sociocultural changes challenge and emphasize gender norms in public and family contexts; (ii) trauma associated with living in and fleeing from conflict zones affects personal and relational well-being, risk, and resilience; (iii) the unique and complex aspects of each family’s journey direct the course of family interactions, decision-making, and settlement; and (iv) key aspects of cultural and religious values, traditions, and practices guide parents’ decisions and hopes for the future.

This presentation highlights how accepted gender norms in the pre-migration context become secondary to safety and security priorities in temporary flight, while gender role changes during resettlement in a new sociocultural context can create conflict and distance in spousal relationships. Traumatic experiences contribute to distress and conflict in family interactions, furthering suffering and increasing risk of violence in some families. For others, or at different times, family interactions and support from others contribute to resilience. Skilled service providers can play an important role in addressing personal and interpersonal struggles during resettlement. These families report a tension between integrating into a new context and holding onto valued aspects of their former family life.