Date of Award

5-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Child and Family Studies

Major Professor

Priscilla W. Blanton

Committee Members

Brian K. Barber, Hillary N. Fouts, Tricia McClam

Abstract

Of the 69,930 refugees that resettled to the United States during the fiscal year of 2013, the largest group consisted of over 19,000 Iraqi refugees. Additionally, the recent outbreak of a new wave of violence in Iraq has led to an increase in the number of Iraqi citizens who have fled Iraq’s borders and migrated to the United States. Earlier studies that had been conducted on the resettlement of Iraqi refugees were quantitative in nature, focused on individuals, and did not provided a nuanced and thick description of the lived experiences of refugee families who had resettled in the United States. This gap in the research is particularly relevant for Iraqi refugee families since they comprise such a large proportion of refugees migrating to America. Accordingly, the purpose of this qualitative existential phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of resettlement for Iraqi refugee families who had recently been forced to flee their homeland and resettle in a mid-sized southeastern city in the United States. From this study it is hoped that government and nonprofit agencies will have a clearer vision of what resettlement was like from the families’ perspectives. Seven Iraqi refugee families (17 participants) were interviewed for the purpose of gaining multiple perspectives of the resettlement process from each family. After data analysis, the seven major themes that emerged across families from these unstructured in-depth interviews were: (1) “We came from death”/“A new life for me and my family” (leaving danger for safety), (2) “We left everything” (loss associated with trauma), (3) “Now we have hope”/“What future do we have?” (hope/lack of hope), (4) “’Can we help you? Do you need anything?’”/”The assistance for us as refugees is very little” (support/lack of support), (5) “We trust God with our life” (religion and spirituality), (6) “The family is our backbone” (family bonding), and (7) “What will the future look like?”/”We came to the unknown” (fear and apprehension about the future). From these themes, a thematic structure that credibly represents these families lived experiences was presented. Finally, the implications for future research and practice were discussed.

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