Communal proactive coping strategies among Tamil refugees in Norway: A case study in a naturalistic setting
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background: An exclusive focus on individual or family coping strategies may be inadequate for people whose major point of concern may be collective healing on a more communal level. Methods: To our knowledge, the current study is the first to make use of ethnographic fieldwork methods to investigate this type of coping as a process in a natural setting over time. Participant observation was employed within a Tamil NGO in Norway between August 2006 and December 2008. Results: Tamil refugees in Norway co-operated to appraise their shared life situation and accumulate resources communally to improve it in culturally meaningful ways. Long term aspirations were related to both the situation in the homeland and in exile. However, unforeseen social events created considerable challenges and forced them to modify and adapt their coping strategies. Conclusions: We describe a form of coping previously not described in the scientific literature: Communal proactive coping strategies, defined as the process by which group members feel collectively responsible for their future well-being and co-operate to promote desired outcomes and prevent undesired changes. The study shows that proactive coping efforts occur in a dynamic social setting which may force people to use their accumulated proactive coping resources in reactive coping efforts. Theoretical and clinical implications are explored.