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Type: Journal article
Title: "Giving back to society what society gave us": altruism, coping, and meaning making by two refugee communities in South Australia
Author: Puvimanasinghe, T.
Denson, L.
Augoustinos, M.
Somasundaram, D.
Citation: Australian Psychologist, 2014; 49(5):313-321
Publisher: Australian Psychological Society
Issue Date: 2014
ISSN: 0005-0067
Statement of
Teresa Puvimanasinghe, Linley A Denson, Martha Augoustinos, and Daya Somasundaram
Abstract: We aimed to explore how refugee people utilised their coping resources and strategies to find meaning in their past and present experiences. Using an experience-centred narrative approach, we analysed the stories of 24 former refugees from two African countries resettled in South Australia. Data analysis revealed altruism and helping behaviour as a prominent and recurring theme of participants’ narrated lives. This meta-theme encompassed four subthemes: (a) surviving war and exile, (b) adapting to Australian society, (c) reaching back home, and (d) meaning making through religious beliefs. Helping, cooperating, and sharing were entwined with participants’ coping strategies and meaning making of experience. Participants’ socio-historical, cultural, and religious context influenced the interpretations of their experiences. Taken together, our findings identified a counter narrative in refugee mental health research beyond trauma and psychopathology. Specifically, we have shown that when the refugee experience is also accompanied by situational contingencies such as receiving help and being called upon to help, together with evaluations such as empathy, identification with suffering, and gratitude, people can be motivated to help others. Future research is needed to explore how altruism and helping behaviour can promote healing from trauma, alleviate distress of separation, and ameliorate acculturation stress among diverse refugee populations.
Keywords: Altruism; coping; narrative; qualitative; refugees; trauma
Rights: © 2014 The Australian Psychological Society
RMID: 0030010935
DOI: 10.1111/ap.12065
Appears in Collections:Psychology publications

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