We left one war and came to another: Resource loss, acculturative stress, and caregiver-child relationships in somali refugee families

Theresa S. Betancourt, Saida Abdi, Brandon S. Ito, Grace M. Lilienthal, Naima Agalab, Heidi Ellis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

205 Scopus citations


Refugee families often encounter a number of acculturative and resettlement stressors as they make lives for themselves in host countries. These difficulties may be compounded by past trauma and violence exposure, posing increased risk for mental health problems. Greater knowledge is needed about protective processes contributing to positive development and adjustment in refugee families despite risk (e.g., resilience). The aims of this research were to identify and examine strengths and resources utilized by Somali refugee children and families in the Boston area to overcome resettlement and acculturative stressors. We used maximum variation sampling to conduct a total of 9 focus groups: 5 focus groups (total participants N = 30) among Somali refugee adolescents and youth, capturing gender and a range of ages (15 to 25 years), as well as 4 focus groups of Somali refugee mothers and fathers in groups (total participants N = 32) stratified by gender. Drawing from conservation of resources theory (COR), we identified 5 forms of resources comprising individual, family, and collective/community strengths: religious faith, healthy family communication, support networks, and peer support. "Community talk" was identified as a community dynamic having both negative and positive implications for family functioning. Protective resources among Somali refugee children and families can help to offset acculturative and resettlement stressors. Many of these locally occurring protective resources have the potential to be leveraged by family and community-based interventions. These findings are being used to design preventative interventions that build on local strengths among Somali refugees in the Boston area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-125
Number of pages12
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Psychological Association.


  • Family
  • Focus group
  • Mental health
  • Refugee
  • Youth


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