Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Paul Florin

Abstract

From 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone was a country entrenched in an 11-year civil war, which was characterized by a number of atrocities, including the abduction of children, systematic rape, and severe amputations; significantly impacting thousands who are maimed with deep psychological wounds. The war resulted in nearly 70,000 causalities and millions were displaced. Displaced persons fleeing brutal wars and political persecution are known to experience a number of associated health concerns which are often exacerbated alongside adjusting to another country. The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore the migration experiences of Sierra Leonean immigrant, refugee, and asylum seeking populations in the United States, in order to describe acculturation experiences, psychological adjustment, and associated mental health outcomes during a post-conflict era. The sample comprised 12 persons who emigrated from Sierra Leone to the United States after the civil war. Individual interviews were used and descriptive content and thematic analysis was utilized in order to guide data collection and analysis. Results revealed themes in six domains: impact of the war; reasons for migration; acculturation; psychological impact; strength and resilience; and researcher recommendations. Findings shed light on the unique challenges and triumphs of an underexplored population. There are also implications about the possible benefits of utilizing cultural insiders to conduct research with vulnerable populations.

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