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Predictors of the integration of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Canada: pre-migration adversity, mental health, personal attributes, and post-migration experience

Morton Beiser (Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Alasdair M. Goodwill (Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Patrizia Albanese (Department of Sociology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Kelly McShane (Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Parvathy Kanthasamy (Department of Languages, Literature and Linguistics, York University, Toronto, Canada)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Article publication date: 16 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

Refugees integrate less successfully than other immigrants. Pre-migration stress, mental disorder and lack of human capital are the most popular explanations, but these propositions have received little empirical testing. The current study of Sri Lankan Tamils in Toronto, Canada, examines the respective contributions of pre-migration adversity, human capital, mental health and social resources in predicting integration. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

Participants are a probability sample of 1,603 Sri Lankan Tamils living in Toronto, Canada. The team, with a community advisory council, developed structured interviews containing information about pre- and post-migration stressors, coping strategies, and family, community, and institutional support. The questionnaire included the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview module for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Interviews were translated, back-translated and administered by bilingual interviewers.

Findings

Two dimensions of integration emerged from a factor analysis of integration-related items: economic and psychosocial. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses revealed that PTSD militated against refugee economic integration, whereas pre-migration adversity (but not PTSD) compromised psychosocial integration. On both measures, increasing length of residence in Canada, and gender (male) were predictors of good integration, whereas age at arrival had an inverse relationship with integration. Religiosity had a positive effect on psychosocial integration but a negative effect on economic. Favourable perceptions of the health care system predicted economic integration and non-family support predicted psychosocial integration.

Originality/value

Results underline the importance of studying integration as a multifaceted phenomenon, help explain why refugees integrate less successfully than other immigrants, and highlight the importance of including mental health and mental health-related issues in integration discourse.

Keywords

Citation

Beiser, M., Goodwill, A.M., Albanese, P., McShane, K. and Kanthasamy, P. (2015), "Predictors of the integration of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in Canada: pre-migration adversity, mental health, personal attributes, and post-migration experience", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 29-44. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-02-2014-0008

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited