Social support under siege: An analysis of forced migration among women from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Karin Wachter, Lauren E. Gulbas

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Scopus citations


    In 2016, researchers conducted a qualitative study in a mid-sized town in the United States to address gaps in research and practice related to psychosocial consequences of forced migration among women. The loss of social support and its impacts on the well-being of women are rarely addressed in refugee resettlement policy or practice overwhelmingly concerned with economic self-sufficiency. The study sought to develop theory to explain how women (n = 27) who migrated from the Democratic Republic of the Congo recreate social support post-resettlement in the United States. An interpretive approach informed by postcolonial feminist perspectives guided the grounded theory methodology. A theoretical model emerged explaining pivots in the internal and relational lives of women as social support systematically constricted over time as a result of war, displacement, and resettlement. Upon arrival to the United States, women experienced partitioned lives through changing relationships to space and time, which contributed to women being alone and impacted well-being. Converging processes propelled women towards learning to stand alone, through which women could develop a sense self-reliance, but not without internal and relational consequences. The analysis contributes to the empirical literature knowledge of how resettlement is a life altering event that sets into motion psychosocial processes with implications for well-being and health. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)107-116
    Number of pages10
    JournalSocial Science and Medicine
    StatePublished - Jul 2018


    • Democratic Republic of Congo
    • Feminist postcolonialism
    • Grounded theory
    • Qualitative research
    • Refugees
    • Resettlement

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • History and Philosophy of Science


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