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Exploring the Sense of Coherence in Past and Future Perspectives of Refugees

Kiernan, Grace (2019) Exploring the Sense of Coherence in Past and Future Perspectives of Refugees.

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Abstract:This study explores the sense of coherence (SOC) as an operationalization of resilience in the context of refugees. A sense of coherence consists of viewing the world as comprehensible, manageable and meaningful. In the last years, many refugees who have come to Germany have experienced severe stressors and continue to do so after arriving in Germany. A need to explore their needs and how these can be met has been repeatedly expressed by researchers and therapists. Previously, the SOC has not been used to measure resilience in refugees, nor has research been conducted on how the SOC is depicted in different temporal perspectives. In this study, a qualitative approach is adopted and the SOC is explored in past, present and future perspectives of refugees. Five refugees were first asked in an interview to describe past situations in which they felt resilient. Then, they were asked to imagine a desired future, and wrote a letter from this perspective. The participants were able to think of situations in which they felt resilient, despite this often being connected to stories of hardships. On the other hand, imagining a desired future and then writing a letter from that situation was more difficult for them to conduct. All past perspectives displayed at least two components of the SOC. Of the 5 letters, 3 were found to display at least one component of the SOC. The letters were also found to be depicted more positively than the past stories. Meaningfulness appeared the most, followed by manageability and then comprehensibility. In their experiences of uncertainty, the world is perceived as less comprehensible and the future as difficult to predict, making meaningfulness more important. The meaning refugees give to the SOC in future perspectives and their ability to imagine a desired future appears to depend on the extent to which they have accepted their past. The qualitative and narrative approach captured the importance of the components of the SOC in remembering past situations of experienced resilience, and also for imagining a desired future. This approach appears to be promising to give individuals the chance to express and possibly enhance their sense of coherence. Therefore, future research should focus on finding ways to strengthen the SOC of refugees, in order to enhance their coping and wellbeing.
Item Type:Essay (Bachelor)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology BSc (56604)
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