Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Kathryn Quina


The negative impacts of various forms of trauma on the physical and mental health of victims are well documented, including the experiences of the French Indo-Chinese, who suffered a range of traumatic experiences ranging from displacement to torture. However, a sizable percentage of French Indo-Chinese refugees living in the U.S. do not exhibit psychopathology. Very little is known about the Indo-Chinese refugees who are not seeking services and are doing well in their host country. This study focused on resilient Cambodian and Vietnamese ex-refugees, with the goal of identifying resiliency factors and their underlying processes, in order to inform the development of intervention programs for future refugees to reduce psychopathological outcomes of their trauma.

A sampling of 10 Cambodians and 10 Vietnamese participants, ages 29 to 67, were recruited via the snowball technique. The inclusion criteria for this study were self-identification as an immigrant from Cambodia or Vietnam who 1) left their country of origin at age six or older; 2) originally arrived in the U.S. on refugee status; and 3) reported being relatively satisfied with how their life is going. The men and women participated in a semi-structured interview with open-ended questions, which included items on: 1) demographics; 2) emigration and resettlement; 3) cultural disruption; 4) language acquisition and difficulties; 5) general coping strategies; 6) trauma experience; and 7) coping resources/skills/strategies. The participants were also asked to fill out several self-reports assessing PTSD symptomatology, trauma experience, and well-being indices.

The transactional model of resiliency (Kumpfer, 1999) provided a comprehensive framework in the study of factors and processes of resilience. This study found similar risk and protective factors as those included in the transactional model, which can be categorized as intra-individual traits, cognitive processes, inter-individual traits, coping behaviors, and past learning. However, there were differences in that the participants in this study did not endorse the need for understanding or attaching meaning to their past trauma. In addition, the ability to differentiate and to choose between acceptance or change-oriented skills were more reflective of resilience.

The key processes to positive coping were found in the interaction between individual and environmental factors, as in all human behaviors. When an acute stressor is introduced, it is the transaction between these factors and the positive outcome that determines resiliency in the person. This study found that resilience is a complex transactional system, suggesting that interventions to promote particular factors will have a positive systemic impact. It is not essential to fully delineate the underlying mechanisms of resilience in order to promote positive coping. The results of this study suggest that resiliency can be taught by increasing self-efficacy and enhancing a sense of coherence.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.