Resilient Afghan Women Coping with Violence and Immigration

Welsh, E., & Brodsky, A. E. (2010). After every darkness is light: Resilient Afghan women coping with violence and immigration. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 1(3), 163-174.

Exposure to war-related violence is a common experience of Afghan women who immigrate to the United States. Although previous research has identified detrimental effects of war-related trauma and displacement on survivors’ mental health, other studies have demonstrated resilience and successful coping strategies.  Welsh and Brodsky (2010) used a mental health checklist and conducted qualitative individual interviews with eight Afghan women who were engaged in the immigration process in order to better understand the psychological and situational factors involved in mental health outcomes for this population. The authors also administered the Afghan War Experiences Scale to assess exposure to war-related trauma and found a large number of such experiences, including being jailed or beaten, the death of family members, the loss of homes, and the lack of access to critical medical care.  The interviewees described several problem-focused coping strategies that they used when in Afghanistan, including efforts to increase security, taking on the roles of male family members who had died or disappeared, and ultimately arranging to leave the country. Other coping efforts included focusing on helping others, receiving social support from family members, maintaining hope, focusing on the future, expressing gratitude, adopting an attitude of determination, religious involvement, and searching for meaning in adversity. Although most participants reported some symptoms of mental distress, their relatively low overall score on mental health checklist suggested that these coping mechanisms contributed to their resilience.

Making Connections

Mental health
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Problem focused coping
Social support

Media Supplement

More information on women in Afghanistan is available from Frontline/World.