Abstract: Patterns and Proximity of Social Network Structures in New Spaces Among Young Bhutanese Refugee Women: What Do Ecomaps Tell Us? (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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708P Patterns and Proximity of Social Network Structures in New Spaces Among Young Bhutanese Refugee Women: What Do Ecomaps Tell Us?

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Jaclyn Kirsch, MSW, PhD Candidate, The Ohio State University
Nancy Mendoza, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Arati Maleku, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Background: Disruption of social networks and loss of social support structures in the post-migration context have profound impacts on refugee well-being and inclusion in new spaces. Although familial ties are often the strongest ties among refugees upon arrival, social networks beyond family are essential entry points to access resources for successful resettlement. While social support through crucial social network is vital to overcoming migration stressors, such as discrimination, social stress, depression, or anxiety, the absence of protective social network compounds risk factors such as, social isolation that prompt depression, anxiety, and long-term effects on chronic health conditions. While knowledge on refugees’ social networks is helpful in bridging the personal and structural dimensions by providing a meso level of analysis, studies exploring social network patterns among refugee youth are extremely limited. Our study explored experiences of young Bhutanese refugee women in interpersonal, intrapersonal and structural contexts by assessing the patterns of multi-level social network structures to make visible connections between the personal and structural dimensions, crucial to fostering sense of belonging and identity as new members of the American society.

Methods: Using eco-maps as a visual representation of individual relationships, connections, and environment, young Bhutanese refugee women(N=39) in a midwestern region participated in a community mapping exercise and illustrated their ecomaps to represent who they consider to be in their network and the type of relationship they have with them. We used Social Network Analysis using egocentric network, a personal-network research design to examine the characteristics of the ego-networks and the relationships between the ego (i.e., young Bhutanese women) and the individuals and services in their network using E-Net software. While the ego-level analysis provided insight into individual access to social support resources, the tie-level analysis explored characteristics and composition of entities included in the social networks.

Results: Findings showed variation in the participants’ social networks: entities (M=13, Range= 3 to 37) and categories (29) including family, friends, society, and community. Majority of the social network categories were relational (57.72%), community (33.6%) and society (2.32%). Family (24%) and friends (22.4%) were the most common entities. Out of 116 entities, 76 were identified as Bhutanese friends, which made up 13.5% of all entities and 65.5% of friends identified. Bhutanese establishments (including community center, food stores, restaurants) and teacher/professor/mentor each made up 7.74% of the entities identified. Disbursement of entities per circle measured levels of closeness The social network with the most circles included 9 levels of closeness. On average, participants included 5.34 circles in their social network. Results showed heterogeneity scores (M =0 .7, SD = 0.03) indicating diversity in the ego-networks.

Conclusion: While relational connections, specifically with family members are crucial, inclusion of entities like places, social media, and cultural connections may indicate creative ways for participants to promote social connections. Spaces outside of family and school that give refugee youth a place to explore their identity as well as build social capital can have extensive positive impacts for their overall well-being, sense of belonging, and inclusion in new spaces.