Cultural Identity Among Afghan and Iraqi Traumatized Refugees: Towards a Conceptual Framework for Mental Health Care Professionals

Author(s): Simon P. N. GROEN ; Annemiek RICHTERS ; Cornelis J. LABAN ; Walter L. J. M. DEVILLÉ


Cultural identity in relation with mental health is of growing interest in the field of transcultural psychiatry. However, there is a need to clarify the concept of cultural identity in order to make it useful in clinical practice. The purpose of this study is to unravel the complexity and many layers of cultural identity, and to assess how stress and acculturation relate to (changes in) cultural identity. As part of a larger study about cultural identity, trauma, and mental health, 85 patients from Afghanistan and Iraq in treatment for trauma-related disorders were interviewed with a Brief Cultural Interview. The interviews were analysed through qualitative data analysis using the procedures of grounded theory. The analysis resulted in three domains of cultural identity: personal identity, ethnic identity and social identity. Within each domain relationships with stress and acculturation were identified. The results offer insight into the intensity of changes in cultural identity, caused by pre-and post-migration stressors and the process of acculturation. Based on the research findings recommendations are formulated to enhance the cultural competency of mental health workers.


Cultural identity, Refugees, Posttraumatic stress disorder, Acculturation, Grounded theory

Tags: Afghanistan, Iraq, Netherlands, Cultural identity, Transcultural approach, Acculturation, Acculturative stress, Trauma, Refugees

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