Looking (also) at the Other Side of the Story. Resilience Processes in Migrants



Studies on migration have focused on obstacles and barriers encountered by migrants when they arrive in a new country. Recognizing that there are difficulties, it is also important to know the resources used by migrants to overcome adversity. This study springs from a theoretical perspective of resilience, based on a culturally significant ecological model (Ungar M, Resilience across Cultures. British Journal of Social Work, 38(2), 218–235, 2008) to analyze the processes of cultural adjustment to the host country in migratory movements. Thus, it seeks to understand the various dynamics in adversity and in resources experienced by migrants in Portugal originated from Portuguese-speaking countries (Guinea, Cape Verde, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique). To this end, seven focus groups (N = 35) were facilitated for a discussion on the dimensions of resilience processes. The thematic analysis revealed five main themes in the adversity dimension with some of its topics further grouped in specific sub-topics. In the resources dimension, four salient themes have emerged. Data was discussed in an articulated perspective of themes, illustrating some of the difficulties and resources of migrants in the specificity of the Portuguese context. Implications for research on resilience are highlighted, and some bridges are built for the context of intervention in migrant integration.


Resilience Ecological model Migrants Focus groups 


This study was funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (doctoral Grant SFRH/BD/60693/2009)


  1. Arbaci, S., & Malheiros, J. (2010). DeSegregation, peripheralisation and the social exclusion of immigrants: southern European Cities in the 1990s. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 36(2), 227–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Atkin, K., Bradby, H., & Harding, S. (2010). Migrants and the key role that they play in what has been termed the age of migration. Ethnicity & Health, 15(5), 435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barwick, C. L., Beiser, M., & Edwards, G. (2002). Refugee children and their families: exploring mental health risks and protective factors. In F. J. C. Azima & N. Grizenko (Eds.), Immigrant and refugee children and their families: clinical, research, and training issues (pp. 37–63). Madison: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bhugra, D., & Gupta, S. (2010). Introduction: setting the scene. In D. Bhugra & Gupta (Eds.). Migration and Mental Health. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bhugra, D., Gupta, S., Bhui, K., Craig, T., Dogra, N., Ingleby, J. D., & Tribe, R. (2011). WPA guidance on mental health and mental health care in migrants. World Psychiatry : Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 10(1), 2–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Block, J. H., & Block, J. (1980). The role of ego-control and ego-resil- iency in the organization of behavior. In W. A. Collins (Ed.), The Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology: Vol. 13. (pp. 39–101). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  7. Bloor, M., Frankand, J., Thomas, M., & Robson, K. (2001). Focus Groups in Social Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  8. Bracalenti, R., Braham, P., Goria, A., Blaschke, J., & Gall, D. Le. (2004). Family Reunification Evaluation Project FARE Final Report (pp. 1–86). Luxembourg.Google Scholar
  9. Branscombe, N. R., Ellemers, N., Spears, R., & Doosje, B. (1999a). The context and content of social identity threats. In N. Ellemers, R. Spears, & B. Doosje (Eds.), Social identity: context, commitment, and content (pp. 35–58). Oxford: Blackwell Science.Google Scholar
  10. Branscombe, N. R., Schmitt, M. T., & Harvey, R. D. (1999b). Perceiving pervasive discrimination among African Americans: implications for group identification and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(1), 135–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bush, K., Bohon, S., & Kim, H. (2005). Adaptation among immigrant families. Families and change, 307–332.Google Scholar
  13. Campbell-Sills, L., Cohan, S. L., & Stein, M. B. (2006). Relationship of resilience to personality, coping, and psychiatric symptoms in young adults. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(4), 585–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carballo, M., & Nerukar, A. (2001). Migration, refugees, and health risks. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 7(3 Suppl), 556–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cassarino, J. P. (2004). Theorising return migration: the conceptual approach to return migrants revisited. International Journal on Multicultural Societies, 6(2), 253–279.Google Scholar
  16. Chiswick, B. R., & Miller, P. W. (2005). Linguistic distance: a quantitative measure of the distance between English and other languages. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 26(1), 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Connor, P. (2012). Balm for the soul: immigrant religion and emotional well-being. International Migration, 50(2), 130–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Connor, K. M., & Davidson, J. R. T. (2003). Development of a new resilience scale: the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC). Depression and Anxiety, 18(2), 76–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Creese, G. L., Dyck, I., & McLaren, A. T. (1999). Reconstituting the family: negotiating immigration and settlement. Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis. Available inhttp://mbc.metropolis.net/assets/uploads/files/wp/1999/WP99-10.pdf
  20. Davydov, D. M., Stewart, R., Ritchie, K., & Chaudieu, I. (2010). Resilience and mental health. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(5), 479–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Desjarlais, R., Eisenberg, L., Good, B., & Kleinman, A. (1995). World mental health: problems and priorities in low-income countries. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Dustmann, C. (1999). Temporary migration, human capital, and language fluency of migrants. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 101(2), 297–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Esser, H. (2006). Migration, language, and integration. AKI Research Review 4. Berlin: Programme on Intercultural Conflicts and Societal Integration (AKI). Social Science Research Center. Available in
  24. Fletcher, D., & Sarkar, M. (2013). Psychological resilience: a review and critique of definitions, concepts, and theory. European Psychologist, 18(1), 12–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fonseca, M. L., Ormond, M., Malheiros, J., Patrício, M., & Martins, F. (2005). Reunificação familiar e imigração em Portugal. Observatório da Imigração, 15, Lisboa: Alto Comissariado para a Imigração e Diálogo Intercultural.Google Scholar
  26. Gilligan, R. (2004). Promoting resilience in child and family social work: issues for social work practice, education and policy. Social Work Education, 23(1), 93–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gomes, A. M., & Baptista, S. (2003). Imigração, desenvolvimento regional e mercado de trabalho-O caso Português. Revista Portuguesa de Estudos Regionais, (1), 99–132.Google Scholar
  28. Hagan, J., & Ebaugh, H. R. (2006). Calling upon the sacred: migrants’ use of religion in the migration process. International Migration Review, 37(4), 1145–1162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Halcomb, E. J., Gholizadeh, L., DiGiacomo, M., Phillips, J., & Davidson, P. M. (2007). Literature review: considerations in undertaking focus group research with culturally and linguistically diverse groups. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 16(6), 1000–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hennink, M. M. (2007). International focus group research: A handbook for the Health and Social Sciences. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Isphording, I. E., & Otten, S. (2011). Linguistic distance and the language fluency of immigrants, 274, Ruhr Economic Papers.Google Scholar
  32. Kaplan, H. B. (1999). Toward an understanding of resilience: a critical review of definitions and models. In M. D. Glantz & J. L. Johnson (Eds.), Resilience and development: Positive life adaptations. (pp. 17–83). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.Google Scholar
  33. Kaplan, H. B. (2013). Reconceputalizing resilience. In S. Goldstein & R. B. Brooks (Eds.) Handbook of Resilience in Children. (pp. 39–55). Boston, MA: Springer US.Google Scholar
  34. Lopez, S. J., Prosser, E. C., Edwards, L. M., Magyar-Moe, J. L., Neufeld, J. E., & Rasmussen, H. N. (2002). Putting positive psychology in a multicultural context. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology. (pp. 700–714). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Luthar, S. S., Cicchetti, D., & Becker, B. (2000a). Research on resilience: response to commentaries. Child Development, 71(3), 573–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Luthar, S. S., Cicchetti, D., & Becker, B. (2000b). The construct of resilience: a critical evaluation and guidelines for future work. Child Development, 71(3), 543–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Luthar, S. S., Sawyer, J. A., & Brown, P. J. (2006). Conceptual issues in studies of resilience: past, present, and future research. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1094, 105–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Machado, F. L. (2009). Quarenta anos de imigração africana: um balanço. Ler História, (56).Google Scholar
  39. Malheiros, J. M., Esteves, A., Rodrigues, F., Estevão, M., Mapril, J., & Afonso, C. (2013). Diagnóstico da população imigrante em Portugal: caracteristicas, problemas e potencialidades. Lisboa: ACIDI.Google Scholar
  40. Mirsky J., & Peretz, Y. (2006). Maturational opportunities in migration: separation–individuation perspective. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 3, 51–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Noh, S., Beiser, M., Kaspar, V., Hou, F., & Rummens, J. (1999). Perceived racial discrimination, depression, and coping: a study of Southeast Asian refugees in Canada. Journal of health and social behavior, 193–207.Google Scholar
  42. Pierce, C. (1988). Stress in the workplace. In A. F. Coner-Edwards & J. Spurlock (Eds.), Black families in crisis: the middle class (pp. 27–34). New York: Brunner/Mazel.Google Scholar
  43. Pires, R. P. (2003). Migrações e Integração – Teoria e Aplicações à Sociedade Portuguesa. Oeiras: Celta Editora.Google Scholar
  44. Pires, R. P., Machado, F. L., Peixoto, J., Pinho, F., Azevedo, J., Sabino, C., Chalante, S., & Vaz, M. J. (2010). Portugal: atlas das migrações internacionais. Lisboa: Tinta-da-China.Google Scholar
  45. Portes, A. (1999). Migrações internacionais: origens, tipos e modos de incorporação. Oeiras: Celta.Google Scholar
  46. Presidência do Conselho de Ministros & ACIDI, I. P. (2010). Plano para a Integração dos Imigrantes (2010-2013). Lisboa: ACIDI.Google Scholar
  47. Richardson, G. E. (2002). The metatheory of resilience and resiliency. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(3), 307–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Royo, S. (2005). Portugal’s migration experience: redefined boundaries and uneasy transformations. Mediterranean Quarterly, 16(4), 7–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rutter, M. (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 57(3), 316–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sardinha, J. (2009). Immigrant associations, integration and identity: Angolan, Brazilian and Eastern European communities in. Portugal: Amsterdam University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Schwartz, S. J., Unger, J. B., Zamboanga, B. L., & Szapocznik, J. (2010). Rethinking the concept of acculturation: implications for theory and research. American Psychologist, 65(4), 237–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Seaton, E. K., Caldwell, C. H., Sellers, R. M., & Jackson, J. S. (2010). An intersectional approach for understanding perceived discrimination and psychological well-being among African American and Caribbean Black youth. Developmental Psychology, 46(5), 1372–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Seccombe, K. (2002). “Beating the odds” versus “changing the odds”: poverty, resilience, and family policy. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(2), 384–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. The American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (2012). Relatório de Imigração, Fronteiras e Asilo. Retrieved from http://sefstat.sef.pt/Docs/Rifa%202012.pdf
  56. Sim, J. (1998). Collecting and analysing qualitative data: issues raised by the focus group. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 28(2), 345–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sonderegger, R., & Barrett, P. M. (2004). Patterns of cultural adjustment among young migrants to Australia. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 13(3), 341–356.Google Scholar
  58. Sue, D. W., Arredondo, P., & McDavis, R. J. (1992). Multicultural counseling competencies and standards: a call to the profession. Jnl Multicult Counseling & Development, 20, 64–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tarter, R. E., & Vanyukov, M. (1999). Re-visiting the validity of the construct of resilience. In M. D. Glantz & J. L. Johnson (Eds.), Resilience and development: Positive life adaptations. (pp. 85–100). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  60. Ungar, M. (2003). Qualitative Contributions to Resilience Research. Qualitative Social Work. 2(1).Google Scholar
  61. Ungar, M. (2004). A constructionist discourse on resilience multiple contexts, multiple realities among at-risk children and youth. Youth & society, 35(3), 341–365.Google Scholar
  62. Ungar, M. (2008). Resilience across cultures. British Journal of Social Work, 38(2), 218–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Ungar, M. (2013). Resilience, trauma, context, and culture. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 14(3), 255–266.Google Scholar
  64. Utsey, S. O., Giesbrecht, N., Hook, J., & Stanard, P. M. (2008). Cultural, sociofamilial, and psychological resources that inhibit psychological distress in African Americans exposed to stressful life events and race-related stress. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55(1).Google Scholar
  65. Vala, J., Brito, R., & Lopes, D. (1999). Expressões dos racismos em Portugal Lisboa: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais.Google Scholar
  66. Vala, J., Lopes, D., & Lima, M. (2008). Black immigrants in Portugal: Luso–tropicalism and prejudice. Journal of Social Issues, 64(2), 287–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Vega, W. A., & Rumbaut, R. G. (1991). Ethnic minorities and mental health. Annual Review of Sociology, 17, 351–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Walsh, F. (2003). Family resilience: a framework for clinical practice. Family Process, 42(1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wildschut, T., Sedikides, C., Arndt, J., & Routledge, C. (2006). Nostalgia: content, triggers, functions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 975–993.Google Scholar
  70. Wolffers, I., Verghis, S., & Marin, M. (2003). Migration, human rights, and health. Lancet, 362(9400), 2019–2020.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Cis-IULLisbonPortugal

Personalised recommendations