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Resilience and Coping Strategies in Liberian Former Girl Child Soldiers Living in Ghana

  • Author / Creator
    Okraku, Olive O
  • Ghana is home to approximately 1,400 Liberian refugees who survived one of Africa’s most brutal civil wars (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], 2015). Among these refugees are former child soldiers, who were coerced at a very early age into fighting for different factions in the war (Verhey, 2001). These individuals, often perceived as perpetrators without considering the circumstances of their involvement, wrestle with post-traumatic stress, social adjustment difficulties, and reconciliation challenges (Denov, 2010). While existing research has focused on the impact of war on child soldiers, little attention has been paid to the unique experiences of former girl child soldiers in post-conflict environments. The objectives of the study are threefold: to identify specific factors that contribute to former girl child soldiers’ resiliency, to identify their specific coping strategies for everyday living, and to identify challenges former girl child soldiers face with regard to their reintegration into society. Using a qualitative research methodology, specifically focused ethnography (Knoblauch, 2005), the study used Ollenrenshaw and Creswell’s (2002) narrative analysis to tell individual stories of the participants as well as following Roper and Shapira’s (2000) thematic analysis framework using interviews, non-participant observations, and document analysis to explore and identify resilience and coping resources in 8 Liberian former girl child soldiers. Results indicate that challenges the participants experienced were twofold: the challenges during the conflict in Liberia and those they faced in the Buduburam camp in Ghana. Challenges in Liberia include forced recruitment processes by reluctantly joining groups for their own safety, being victimized for sexual purposes, and witnessing murders. Reintegration challenges in Ghana include psychosocial difficulties, lack of support for basic needs, language barriers, and adjustment difficulties. Coping resources used by participants fall under three themes: social support, spiritual practices, and beliefs and individual resilience qualities and practices. Social support includes seeking and receiving support from church, neighbours, and pastors. Spiritual practices and beliefs encompass praying, fasting, upholding church rituals and practices, as well as belief in God. Individual qualities and practices incorporate work, self-reliance, positive mindset, and hope. Overall, the results have demonstrated the unique resilience and coping resources utilized by this population. Furthermore, the study demonstrated that this population is resilient in the face of adversity and survivors are not living lives overshadowed by trauma.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    2017-11
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3028PT13
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
    English
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
    Doctoral
  • Department
    • Department of Educational Psychology
  • Specialization
    • Counselling Psychology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Dr. Sophie Yohani (Educational Psychology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Dr. Denise Larsen (Educational Psychology)
    • Dr. Carol Leroy (Educational Psychology)
    • Dr. Jim Eliuk (University of Alberta)
    • Dr. Linda Kreitzer (Social Work) University of Calgary
    • Dr Meghan MacKenzie (University of Sydney) External examiner