Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Family Relationships of Afghan, Karen and Sudanese Refugee Youth

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Family Relationships of Afghan, Karen and Sudanese Refugee Youth

Article excerpt


Research with immigrant and refugee families consistently documents acculturation gaps and role reversals between migrant youth and their parents. However, debate exists over whether these necessarily lead to family conflict and distress. This question was explored in this community-based qualitative study through focus groups and interviews with 70 newcomer refugee youth aged 16 to 24 from the Afghan, Karen and Sudanese communities in Toronto. Thematic analysis revealed that youths' responsibilities increased following migration, often involving service navigation, language interpretation, and providing financial and emotional support, in addition to household chores and pursuing education and employment. Several youth explicitly took on parental roles in the absence of a parent. These changes did not necessarily lead to conflict, and where family conflict and distancing occurred, other factors such as lack of time together or low levels of family support seemed to be the contributing factors. Youth were clearly "resettlement champions" for their families, which increased family-level well-being, often at the cost of individual-level well-being. Policy implications are discussed.


Une recherche documentee sur les familles d'immigres et de refugies montre de maniere consistante des ecarts dus a l'acculturation ainsi que des renversements de role entre les jeunes immigres et leurs parents, li y a cependant un debat sur la question de savoir si ceci doit forcement mener a des conflits familiaux et a une certaine detresse. Cette questiona fait l'objet d'une etude qualitative realisee dans les communautes afghanes, karenes et soudanaises de Toronto a partir de groupes cibles et d'entrevues menees avec 70 jeunes refugies nouvellement arrives et ages de 16 a 24 ans. Une analyse thematique a revele que les responsabilites de ces jeunesaugmentaient suite a l'immigration, souvent afin d'aider les leurs a s'orienter dans les services, a leur servir d'interprete et a leur apporter un soutien financier et emotionnei, et ce en plus de tenir la maison, de continuer des etudes et de gagner leur vie. Plusieurs d'entre eux ont pris explicitement le role de parents en l'absence de l'un d'entre eux. Ces changements n'ont pas automatiquement provoque de confiits sauf que, Ia ou li y en a eu dans la famille ou qu'elle a souffert de distanciation, d'autres facteurs tels que ie manque de temps en commun ou un bas niveau de support familial semblent y avoir contribue. Les jeunes sont clairement les <> pour les leurs, ameliorant le bien-etre familial, souvent au prix d'un mieux vivre individuel. Il s'agit donc de voir ce que cette situation implique au niveau des politiques a leur egard.


Immigrant and refugee families share many challenges in the process of migration, such as learning a new "host" culture, experiencing extended family separation, and difficulties in accessing appropriate education and employment. Refugee families differ from immigrant families, though, because they may not have chosen the time, means or location of their migration, and often face unique challenges in maintaining a connection with their country of origin and with family left behind (Heger Boyle and Ali 2009; Williams 2010). The effects of migration on intergenerational relationships in refugee families may, therefore, differ from those in immigrant families in the intensity and/or nature of the changes brought about.

Members of refugee families may have experienced a collapse of social order, which can be mirrored in a collapse of ordered relationships within families, and may have personally witnessed or experienced war and violence (Boyden et al. 2002). In some cases, military forces may have actively promoted intergenerational mistrust and conflict as part of their assault on communities (Newman 2005). Refugee families also often spend years in refugee camps prior to migration, thus experiencing prolonged uncertainty and difficult living conditions that can challenge family structure and relationships (Heger Boyle and Ali 2009). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.