Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Brian K. Barber

Committee Members

Clea A. McNeely, Priscilla Blanton, Spenser B. Olmstead, Barbara Thayer-Bacon


The family domain has been inadequately included in general discussions of wellbeing and quality of life. The omission of family influences from these discussions is particularly unfortunate given that families are the primary institution in which individuals come to know themselves in relation to others and their environment. Adequate attention to family is all the more important when studying political conflict given the span of forces associated with political conflict that might tax families. This dissertation used data from a recent project designed to understand the nature of wellbeing/ quality of life among Palestinians, focusing particularly on the role of family. Interview data from 14 group interviews of 21-53 year old Palestinians conducted in 2010 were used (n=68; 5 individuals per group, minus two absentees; 33 males, 35 females). Analyses of the interview data were conducted using principles from a grounded theory approach. Findings revealed that although family was not described as the most important aspect of wellbeing, it featured prominently in conceptualizations of quality of life, both as affecting and being affected by wellbeing in other domains. From the women’s interviews, five themes of family life emerged. These values included connection among family members, the importance of autonomy and educational attainment for women and children, desires for the physical safety of one’s family, and the need for fathers to attain economic security. Similarly, the men also spoke of the importance of economic security to a man’s sense of self and issues of women’s autonomy. Some of the men also discussed the roles of respect and religious devotion. Though there were differences in the themes that emerged from the men’s and women’s interviews, both groups described how the political context creates barriers that prevent families from achieving wellbeing. The findings of this study point to the importance of including family relationships in discussions of wellbeing /quality or life, particularly for individuals who have experienced chronic political constraint such as Palestinians. One apparent value of such an endeavor is the discovery of how tightly family life is tied to other prevailing contexts in jointly determining quality of life.

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