“Seeing the Life”: Redefining Self-Worth and Family Roles Among Iraqi Refugee Families Resettled in the United States

  • Matthew NelsonEmail author
  • Julia Meredith Hess
  • Brian Isakson
  • Jessica Goodkind


Social and geographic displacement is a global phenomenon that precipitates novel stressors and disruptions that intersect with long-standing familial and social roles. Among the displaced are war-torn Iraqi refugee families, who must address these new obstacles in unconventional ways. This study explores how such disruptions have influenced associations between gender and apparent self-worth experienced by Iraqi refugee families upon relocation to the USA. Further, the psychosocial mechanisms requisite of any novel approach to a new social construct are explored and reveal that production in the family is at the core of instability and shifting power dynamics during resettlement, preventing family members from “seeing the life” in the USA that they had envisioned prior to immigration. Over 200 semi-structured qualitative interviews with Iraqi participants and mental health providers were conducted over the course of the study, which demonstrate a plasticity among social roles in the family and community that transcends the notion of a simple role reversal, and illustrate the complex positionalities that families under stress must approximate during such physical and social displacement.


Refugee Gender Displacement Health Family Iraq 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Osteopathic Medicine in ArizonaA.T. Still UniversityMesaUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA
  4. 4.Department of SociologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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