The role of shared identity in social support among refugees of conflict: case of Syrian refugees in Middle East

Alfadhli, Khalifah H (2018) The role of shared identity in social support among refugees of conflict: case of Syrian refugees in Middle East. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Forced displacement is the crises of our time as it has reached an unprecedented magnitude and rate, which exceeds the capacity of the international relief system and required efforts from global citizens, institutions, governments and communities. Social psychology has an important role in this needed mass response, to provide a better understanding of how the forcibly displaced people deal with their situation and how they are affected by it. Taking into consideration the sharp gap of resources available to the international relief system, it is especially important to understand the natural mechanisms of support the affected communities have, which can be an effective tool to build more efficient interventions and to empower marginalised communities and individuals.

This research project aims to explore one possible mechanism underlining social support among refugees of conflict in developing countries, and sought to answer three main questions: how refugees help each other? Does sharing an emergent identity of being a “refugee” facilitate support among them, similar to people affected by disasters? Does this shared identity-based support impact their health? After conducting a systematic literature review (Paper 1) of psychosocial support among refugees of conflict in developing countries, we identified that the main challenge was the stressors arising from the exile environment (secondary stressors) and found indications of shared identity-based support among them.

To do further exploration with social identity in mind, we conducted an 8-month ethnography (Paper 2) with Syrian refugees in Jordan that revealed an emergent shared “refugee” identity which seems to stem from a sense of common fate and motivates providing help to other refugees in addition to creating new social networks in exile that facilitates support efficiently. To better understand the secondary stressors (Paper 3), we conducted a survey (N = 305) and combined it with ethnographic data to find that Syrian refugees in Jordan suffer the most from financial stressors, due to loss of income and high living expenses; environmental stressors arise from exile and are either circumstantial (e.g., services and legal requirements) or created by this environment (e.g., instability and lack of familiarity); social stressors, directly related to social relations (e.g., discrimination & exploitation). In order to explore the process of support and the exact role of shared identity, we conducted two surveys (Paper 4) among Syrian refugees in Jordan (N = 156) and Turkey (N = 234) and used path analysis to build a model, which suggested that shared social identity is an important predictor of providing support and collective efficacy, which in turn has a positive association with general health of the refugees. We found indications that such positive associations could have a buffering effect in counter to the negative effect of stressors and stress on the health of refugees.

We do acknowledge the stigmatic nature of a “refugee” identity and that there are other sources of support among the refugees. Nevertheless, we suggest that shared social identity can be a valuable resource in the field of psychosocial support among refugees of conflict in developing countries, especially if incorporated in the design of community level intervention.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM1001 Social psychology > HM1041 Social perception. Social cognition Including perception of the self and others, prejudices, stereotype
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2018 09:21
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2018 09:21

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