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Migration, metamorphosis and the residual link: resources of British women to re-invent themselves

Ward, Catherine Hall (2000) Migration, metamorphosis and the residual link: resources of British women to re-invent themselves. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Migration can cause disruption to the normal functioning of the family; especially women and mothers. In this study a cross sectional approach, using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies was undertaken to establish the impact of migration on women fiom the United Kingdom (UK) and Eire (N=154) now living in Australia; from these participants 40 were selected for in-depth interview. Women were asked about their experiences of migration and the strategies used to 'settle' in a new country. The researcher postulated that the process of settlement requires a reinvention of the self through building new perceptions of culture, country, friends, and family and the re-definition of the self in relation to these aspects of the environment. A conceptual model was developed and used to determine and examine the relationships amongst who and what influenced the decision and motivation to migrate, the impact of exposure to a new culture, assault on the old identity and the possible grieving response to the impact of multiple loss (loss of home, major attachment figure, family, community, culture and social networks).

Bowlby's attachment theory and grieving process was used as a theoretical framework for the study. Data analysis inQcated that the majority of the women experienced at least some of the characteristics associated with the stages of the grieving process and the time-scale and pathway through the process differed amongst individuals. Women who successfully reached the final stage (reorganisation) of the grieving process were able to re-invent themselves using pre and post-migration strategies (social, cultural and country activities). Participants who were less able in this transformation or re-invention used more solitary strategies. Different levels of a sense of belonging and success in re-inventing the self were linked to the different motivations for migrating. Inability to reach the stage of re-organisation, even after residency of 20 years or more, resulted in negative perceptions of the adopted country and continuing psychological distress. However, even those participants who successfully re-invented themselves continued to foster a residual link to the homeland. This is interpreted to be the result of a form of imprinting. Furthermore, women with newborns or young children identified that the impact of multiple loss, especially loss of a social support system, had a detrimental impact on their childrearing experiences.

The study has implications for future migrants in assisting them to adjust and survive in the new country. It also has implications for health professionals to recognise that all mothers and perhaps especially migrant mothers require a social support network. Further, the health professional needs to be a part of that network and also assist the migrant to develop the appropriate shlls to extend their social support. In addition, immigration and social services and the general population should recognise and provide for the psychological and physical needs of migrants of all origins - English speaking as well as non-English speaking.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Supervisor(s): Styles, Irene
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