Author ORCID Identifier

0000-0002-0825-6671

Date of Award

8-2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Gabriel Kuperminc

Second Advisor

Sierra Carter

Third Advisor

Kevin Swartout

Fourth Advisor

Daniel Whitaker

Abstract

Refugees face high rates of mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Several pre- and post-migration risk factors for negative mental health outcomes have been identified, including discrimination. However, extant literature on the association between discrimination and refugee mental health has rarely attended to additional marginalized identities beyond refugee status, resulting in a limited understanding of individual differences. Guided by intersectionality theory, the goal of the present study is to address this gap with three primary research questions: 1) What are refugee women’s experiences of post-migration discrimination? 2) How do intersections of multiple marginalized identities shape these experiences of post-migration discrimination and the way refugee women interpret them? 3) How do discrimination experiences influence refugee women’s mental health and well-being? Individual interviews were conducted with six adult refugee women ages 18-40. Quantitative measures of discrimination, psychological distress, and well-being were also administered. Participants’ countries of origin included Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, and Pakistan; all participants had lived in the United States for at least four years. Qualitative data were analyzed using interpretive phenomenological analysis; quantitative data were analyzed descriptively. Six superordinate themes were identified in the qualitative analysis: discrimination targets multiple marginalized identities, discrimination rooted in perceived superiority, negative emotions, identity conflict, changes in behavior to prevent discrimination, and difficult decisions over how to respond to discrimination. Results indicated that refugee women experience discrimination that targets multiple marginalized identities, primarily their refugee status, ethnicity, race, and religion. Their interpretations of these discrimination experiences were both additive and intersectional in nature. Furthermore, refugee women reported that discrimination has wide-ranging negative mental health consequences spanning emotional, cognitive, and behavioral domains. Quantitative measures revealed that all women experienced multiple forms of discrimination, and most of the women reported high levels of psychological distress while also maintaining a sense of well-being and hope. This study has important clinical and policy implications to not only ameliorate the psychological distress associated with discrimination, but also reduce the frequency of discrimination itself.

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