University of Tasmania

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The Influence of distal and proximate culture on the experience of life crises : Australian and African perspectives

posted on 2023-05-27, 19:25 authored by Copping, Alicia Nicole
This thesis comprises a programmatic suite of qualitative research designed to investigate the experience of life crises for three local communities with differing distal and proximate cultural values (Caucasian, Sudanese and West African Australians). The thesis takes an holistic approach to understanding the experience of trauma, with a focus on posttraumatic growth. Sudanese and West Africans represent two recently emerging Australian communities, some members of which have significant mental health needs due to protracted human rights abuse and life as a refugee. In order for mainstream Australian mental health services to meet the needs of these communities in a culturally competent fashion, their experience of trauma, coping, and adaptation to trauma must be understood. The thesis comprises three studies describing the development of Grounded Theory models of the trauma adaptation journey for each community group. A fourth model was developed describing the resettlement challenges facing former refugees in Australia, and their potential impact on pre-existing traumatic distress. Fifty-seven people participated in this investigation (27 Caucasian-Australian, 15 Sudanese-Australian, & 15 West African-Australian). Results from Study One showed that Caucasian-Australian participants endorsed existing dimensions of Posttraumatic Growth outcomes, and adapted to trauma in a similar pattern to that suggested in Posttraumatic Growth literature. Additional qualitative components of the Caucasian-Australian model included the expression of adverse post-trauma outcomes such as Self Deprecation and Loss of Control, and positive post-trauma outcomes such as Compassion and Effortful Reinvention of Self. It is suggested that this sample's individualistic nature resulted in the emphasis of personal control factors in both positive and adverse outcomes and coping mechanisms. Conversely, Studies Two and Three showed that the Sudanese and West African-Australian participants were still in the process of adapting to their previous trauma, and that this process was hindered by ongoing crises in their resettlement journeys. Participants endorsed Posttraumatic Growth outcomes; however, these themes were elucidated as part of the process participants were undergoing on their journeys to positive post trauma adaptation, or as cultural variables that promote resilience to hardship that may have developed through cultural or societal growth, rather than as personal post-trauma outcomes. It is suggested that African-Australian participants may be culturally prepared for hardship. Factors contributing to positive adaptation that were elucidated from these samples included Religion, Strength, Compassion, New Possibilities, Better Times Ahead, and Support. Several culturally specific idioms of distress were also highlighted, as well as distress related symptoms. Themes of ongoing crises included Cultural Differences, Racism and Discrimination, Worry for Loved Ones Left Behind, and Barriers to Positive Adaptation (e.g., language difficulties, concern for employment and education). The results of this research have significant implications for the development and delivery of mental health services in Australia, and internationally. In summary, it was noted that mainstream mental health services in individualistic nations could i) include collectivistic notions of social support and advice seeking, and religiosity and spirituality into psychotherapeutic interventions for migrants from collectivistic cultures; and ii) due to former refugees' experiences of ongoing crises, provide support within a holistic, systems approach, providing community development, assistance with practical needs, and advocacy. This thesis evaluates existing therapeutic techniques and makes recommendations for the provision of culturally appropriate mainstream mental health services that may effectively ameliorate trauma related distress in former refugee populations.


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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 2010 the author Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references. Ch. 1. A long journey -- Ch. 2. Trauma, posttraumatic growth, and cultural psychology -- Ch. 3. Refugee trauma and the influence of culture -- Ch. 4. Methodology -- Ch. 5. Study One: a Caucasian-Australian story -- Ch. 6. Study Two: a Sudanese-Australian story -- Ch. 7. Study Three: a West African-Australian story -- Ch. 8. Resettlement, acculturation, and ongoing crises in an African-Australian sample -- Ch. 9. General discussion

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