Abstract: Salir Adelante: Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma and Resilience in Migrant Families from Central America (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Salir Adelante: Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma and Resilience in Migrant Families from Central America

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Laveen A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Arlene Bjugstad, MSW, PhD student, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Jodi Berger Cardoso, PhD
Background and Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the processes by which trauma and resilience are transmitted intergenerationally among families who have experienced forced migration and parent-child separation. Fleeing extreme poverty and violence, and seeking safety and survival, increasing numbers of families are migrating to the U.S. from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Long histories of war, violence, poverty, political and social instability, tied to the United States’ policies and actions in the region, have resulted in traumatic experiences that reverberate through generations of families and communities. While research on intergenerational trauma has begun to gain increased attention, very little of this research has taken into consideration the unique experiences of recent migrant families from these countries. Moreover, scant scholarship has explored how strategies for resilience, survival, and agency are passed through generations of these migrant families. Methods: During Phase 1 of an intervention adaptation project, in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with sixteen mother-child dyads (n=32) to explore parent-child separation in the context of migration. Through a data-driven process of memoing and systematic debriefing, themes of intergenerational trauma emerged during data collection. To explore the concepts underlying the intergenerational transmission trauma within the context of forced migration and family separation, a subsample of mothers and youth from Central America (n=24; 75%) were selected for analysis. Anchored in constructivist grounded theory methods and guided by Sotero’s Conceptual Model of Historical Trauma, individual interviews were first processed through data-driven open and focused coding. Core categories reflecting unique intergenerational processes were identified through the use of conditional matrices, axial coding, memos, diagrams, analytical check-ins, constant and theoretical comparisons. Results: Findings reveal three important concepts that influence how trauma and resilience are transmitted intergenerationally among families who have recently migrated from Central America. The youth and mothers described the transmission of trauma as (1) multi-directional, with impacts that reverberate up, down and across generations. The dyads described experiencing (2) systemic traumatization in the form of oppressive social, political, legal, and economic systems that perpetuate traumatic stress and cause family separation. Finally, the concept of (3) saliendo adelante, or getting ahead was found to be both a process and a goal for the mothers and the youth.Conclusions and Implications: Results from this study elucidate the complex and intersecting processes that contribute to the transmission of trauma intergenerationally and the important concept of saliendo adelante in promoting resilience across generations. The three core concepts uncovered by this study provide an important extension of our understanding of the transgenerational transmission of trauma. These core concepts represent pathways through which trauma and resilience are transmitted and harnessed within Central American migrant families and communities. It is essential for practitioners, policy makers and researchers to understand the cyclical nature of the transgenerational transmission of trauma, the pervasive perpetuation of systemic traumatization, and the desire of families to promote resilience among future generations.