Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Palestinian Youth and Their Families: Paradoxes of Resilience in the Cultural and Sociopolitical Context of Conflict, Stress, and Trauma in the Middle East

Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

Palestinian Youth and Their Families: Paradoxes of Resilience in the Cultural and Sociopolitical Context of Conflict, Stress, and Trauma in the Middle East

Article excerpt


This analysis addresses the dynamic interplay of culture and resilience in the sociopolitical context of chronic adversity and political violence, for Palestinian youth, their families and communities. Themes include: the cultural context of resilience under conditions of chronic adversity; youth experiences of complex stress and developmental trauma, in cultural, familial and community contexts of exposure, vulnerability, adaptation, strengths and resilience; the dynamic interplay of, amelioration of maladaptation, recovery, and resilience with due respect to culture; support for children and youth in dynamic cultural contexts of chronic adversity, trauma, and cultural imperatives for resilience, including those of trans-generational cultural changes; contextual, familial and cultural supports and barriers for children and youth for healing and the development of resilience under adverse conditions; examination of some paradoxes of resilience, including the cultural manifestations of pathology interacting with the dynamics of resilience; and potential for amplifying adaptive strengths and flexible resilience in the best interest of youth, their families, and communities.

The literature, as well as, the community consultations and clinical experiences of the authors, suggest opportunities to promote and sustain resilience in the face of anticipated chronic adversity and vulnerability, influenced by cultural and family imperatives for perpetual resilience. Theoretical underpinnings of our work are based on support for a dynamic, fluid, and ecological understanding of the realities (e.g. bulldozed houses) and constructed meanings (e.g. injustice and chronic oppression) continually unfolding for Palestinian culture, including: cultural and personal trauma; supports for strengths enhancement and amelioration; collective strength mobilization and personal recovery; cultural and personal resistance and resilience; and, the paradoxes of resilience - with special attention to youth and their development within a context of political violence.

Dynamics of culture and resilience

The position taken in this analysis is that culture of a people with a relatively bounded identity (e.g. Palestinian), influences life as lived, including defining and managing trauma, as well as supporting recovery, resilience and resistance, juxtaposed to external forces, having qualities, among which reflect dynamic interactions identified below:

* relatively fixed historical traditions of shared beliefs, attitudes, and values, norms, mores, meanings, action patterns, expression or suppression of affect, individual, familial, and collective identity, including relatively common cultural expectations (e.g. using religious and spiritual meanings and ritual, associated with death, dying and grief, to support resistance and resilience)(l);

* fluid and responsive cultural adaptations, maladaptation, attaching of contextualized meaning, and expressions of collective agency, in current contexts and situations, as the culture adapts to realities of life as lived, such as realistically anticipated threat and adversity (e.g. night raids by Israeli military), and assignment of cultural meanings, the latter of which may be understood as socially constructed (e.g. unjustified oppression and justified resistance), as associated with political violence, feelings of relative powerlessness, and the cultural expectations of resistance as expressions of resilience;

* some, transgenerational transformations of culture, as cultures demonstrate their fluidity and evidence some change in the direction of what they are becoming, within the context of both localization (e.g. Palestinians within the context of Israeli social systems) and the globalization of expressions of culture (e.g. collective identity formation as an international sociopolitical entity, as an expression of resilience).

In short, culture may have relatively, static elements, contextually adaptive elements, and transformative elements, all interacting, each with the other, for actualizing resiliencies, with common elements across cultures, as well as diverse dynamic, flexible and fluid adaptations and expressions (2), including support for youth with relatively unique experiences within contexts of political violence and associated trauma. …

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