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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Post-migration experiences of refugee children in Canada : strengths and resilience Lee, Angelina


Given the history of immigration and refugee resettlement in Canada, its growing population of newcomers, particularly the recent influx of refugees, calls for a need to explore their experiences after migration. Previous research and clinical practice with refugee children and families have been predominantly trauma-based and focused on the maladaptive aspects of their post-migration lives. While it is important to recognize their unique challenges, this deficit-based model may risk pathologizing the refugee experience itself and disempowering refugee people. The present study uses a strengths-based approach and a qualitative methodology of interpretative phenomenological analysis to understand the lived experiences of children who arrived in Canada with refugee status. The purpose of the study was to explore the meaning of strength in their post-migration experiences by asking how they perceive their own assets and skills and how they describe the impact of their families, schools, and communities on their strengths. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four girls between ages 10 and 14 using a narrative therapy- and arts-method called the Tree of Life as an elicitation device. All interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed for data analysis. Results revealed ten subthemes as strengths and sources of resilience under three broad themes of Individual Strengths, Family Impact, and School/Community Impact. Participants discussed their personal qualities, including Unique Talents, Ability to Face Challenges, Strong Family Bond, Openness to Diversity, Value in Own Culture, and Desire to Help Others, as well as social support in forms of Family as Role Models, Parental Involvement, Social Network, and New Experiences and Opportunities. Findings of this study suggest potential individual, familial, and school/community-related protective factors for refugee children, and significant implications for professionals who work with refugee families in Canada.

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