Social Support as a Moderator of Acculturative Stress among Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Renner, Walter, Laireiter, Anton-Rupert, Maier, Marco J., Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal
Austria's geographical position in central Europe has resulted in a history of hosting and granting protection to refugees and displaced persons, dating from the era following the second World War. The total number of asylum applications has been unstable, owing to national and international political factors, during the last ten years (20,129 in 1999 vs. 39,354 in 2002 vs. 15,821 in 2009, Ministry of the Interior, 2011). However, Chechens and Afghans continue to be the most prominent groups applying for asylum in Austria. In 2009, 1,398 Chechens and 587 Afghans were granted political asylum and 312 Chechens and 535 Afghans were granted the right to stay on humanitarian grounds (Asylkoordination Osterreich, 2010). Procedures at the various stages of appealing for asylum frequently last for several years, during which time asylum seekers live at refugee homes or private quarters and do not have access to the labor market. Having survived political persecution, imprisonment, and torture in their countries of origin, and often being subjected to dire circumstances in the course of their flight, approximately 50% of Chechen and Afghan refugees and asylum seekers in Austria suffer from severe symptoms of traumatization (Renner & Salem, 2009; Renner, Salem, & Ottomeyer, 2007; Wilson & Drozdek, 2004).
In addition to the psychological strain prior to migration, further difficulties in the course of acculturation, after arriving and after being granted asylum, must be considered. Such problems have been addressed by, for example, Beiser (2006) with respect to South Asian refugees in Canada. Porter and Haslam (2005), in their comprehensive review of the literature, have pointed to poor mental health among acculturating refugees worldwide. Numerous researchers have also demonstrated that refugees experience economic difficulties after they have been granted refugee status (Hammarstedt, 2009, for France, The Netherlands and Sweden; Hansen & Lofstrom, 2006, for Sweden and Norway; and Jackering 2007, for Germany). Ekhaugen (2005), for example, found in a longitudinal study that 55% of refugees were still dependent on the social security system to some extent eight years after their arrival. There is also evidence of an interaction between posttraumatic and acculturative stress, that is, refugees with a history of trauma can be expected to have more difficulties in the course of acculturation than those without a history of trauma (Fox, Cowell, & Montgomery, 1994; Silove, Manicavasagar, Coello, & Aroche, 2005; Spasojevic, Heffer, & Snyder, 2000).
Applying Lazarus and Folkman's (1984) transactional model of stress and coping to the acculturation domain, Berry (1997, 2005) postulated that an individual's acculturation experience is first influenced at a group level by his or her society of origin and settlement (see Figure 1).
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
According to Berry's model of acculturative stress, stress reactions may lead to symptoms such as anxiety and depression, which will, in turn, influence the individual's psychological and sociocultural adaptation (see central line in Figure 1). As far as moderating factors are concerned, sociodemographic variables such as age, gender, religion, and educational level are important (see upper part of Figure 1). In addition, dynamic factors in the course of acculturation may promote or hinder an individual's adaptation, with social support being one of the most obvious (see lower part of Figure 1).
There is a wealth of literature about the moderating effect that social support has on stress reactions. This has been summarized by, for example, Morrison and Bennett (2006). In addition to its direct effects on well-being (Shumaker & Brownell, 1984), social support has been shown to have a protective buffering function against the effects that stressful life events have on psychological functioning and mental health, such …
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Publication information: Article title: Social Support as a Moderator of Acculturative Stress among Refugees and Asylum Seekers. Contributors: Renner, Walter - Author, Laireiter, Anton-Rupert - Author, Maier, Marco J. - Author. Journal title: Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal. Volume: 40. Issue: 1 Publication date: February 2012. Page number: 129+. © 2009 Scientific Journal Publishers, Ltd. COPYRIGHT 2012 Gale Group.
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