War and Displacement Stressors and Coping Mechanisms of Syrian Urban Refugee Families Living in Istanbul

Aliriza Arenliu, Nathan Bertelsen, Rahaf Saad, Hussam Abdulaziz, Stevan Merrill Weine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The overall purpose of this study was to achieve a contextual understanding of war and displacement stressors and coping mechanisms among urban refugee families from Syria living in Istanbul. This study was informed primarily by Walsh's family resilience framework and Weine's Family Consequences of Refugee Trauma empirical model. Qualitative family interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 30 Syrian refugee families from the çapa and Esenler neighborhoods of Istanbul. Data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach and Atlas/ti software. The analysis identified a total of 21 war and displacement stressors for families across 3 categories: (a) Surviving war and border crossing; (b) Living as urban refugees, and; (c) Parenting children in refuge. The analysis also identified a total of 16 coping mechanisms for families across 4 themes: (a) Flexible and reciprocal family organization; (b) Hopeful family beliefs and communication; (c) Staying connected with family in Syria and in exile, and; (d) Making the best of living in a new country. These findings underlie the need for several practice and policy priorities including: (a) Increasing the number of children attending Turkish schools and decreasing child labor; (b) Incorporating faith into psycho-social and mental health interventions, and; (c) Developing family focused interventions conducted by community-based lay providers that draw upon empirical models of family stressors and coping.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Psychological Association.


  • Coping
  • Qualitative
  • Refugee families
  • Stressors
  • Syrian


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