Social support needs of Sudanese and Zimbabwean refugee new parents in Canada

Author(s): Miriam STEWART ; Kaysi Eastlick KUSHNER ; CindyLee DENNIS ; Michael KARIWO ; Nicole LETOURNEAU ; Knox MAKUMBE ; Edward MAKWARIMBA ; Edward SHIZHA


This study examines support needs of African refugee new parents in Canada, and identifies support preferences that may enhance the mental health of refugee parents and children.

Seventy-two refugee new parents from Zimbabwe (n=36) and Sudan (n=36) participated in individual interviews. All had a child aged four months to five years born in Canada . Refugee new parents completed standardized measures on social support resources and support seeking as a coping strategy. Four group interviews (n=30) with refugee new parents were subsequently conducted. In addition, two group interviews (n=30) were held with service providers and policy influencers.

Separated from their traditional family and cultural supports, refugee new parents reported isolation and loneliness. They lacked support during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and had limited interactions with people from similar cultural backgrounds. Refugees required support to access services and overcome barriers such as language, complex systems, and limited financial resources. Support preferences included emotional and information support from peers from their cultural community and culturally-sensitive service providers.

Psychometric evaluation of the quantitative measures with the two specific populations included in this study had not been conducted, although these measures have been used with ethnically diverse populations by other researchers.

The study findings can inform culturally appropriate health professional practice, program and policy development.

The study bridges gaps in research examining support needs and support intervention preferences of African refugee new parents.

Tags: Zimbabwe, Sudan, Canada, Refugees, Parents, Families, Parenting, Social isolation, Social support, Community, Access to mental health care, Transcultural approach

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