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Social relationships and trust in asylum seeking families with children

Conference paper
Authors Ulla Björnberg
Published in Paper presented in RN on Families and intimate lives, European Sociological conference, Lisbon 2009
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Sociology
Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Language en
Keywords Asylum seeking families, resilience, transnational kin relationships, social capital
Subject categories Sociology


The point of departure for my paper is the assumption that social relationships with kin and local contexts are important for the well being of asylum seeking children. For asylum seeking children and families social networking might be hard to accomplish due to constraints linked to social and legal contexts in the host country. Constraints can also be linked to the family situation and the circumstances that they have to cope with in every day life before and after the flight. In the paper I draw on results from an ongoing study on the experiences of asylum seeking children and their families in Sweden. The main focus is on families who have waited for decisions regarding permanent residence for several months and sometimes more than a year and the ways in which kin relationships are developing during transition from the country of origin to the host country. The empirical data are based on qualitative interviews with children from 9 years and with one parent for each child. The over arching research objective is to identify factors that are important for well being of children seeking asylum and to study how they cope with their experiences as asylum seekers. The tension between excluding experiences and expectations regarding how the situation of the child and it’s family should improve or deteriorate after the flight is for a child a constitutive reference for how coping strategies are developed. In the analysis I draw on theoretical concepts of resilience, empowerment and social capital as conditions for well-being. Results suggest that both parents and children seem to find themselves in a social vacuum - they have weak social relationships with transnational members of kin as well as local neighbours and friends. This is interpreted as a coping strategy due to lack of trust. Lack of trust is both a consequence of but also a response to the liminality during the transition. Individualism and independence also appear as coping strategies of adult asylum seekers and children

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