CYRRC

Ongoing Project:

Newcomer Refugee and Immigrant Youth’s Experience with Covid-19

Researchers: Reza Nakhaie1, Howard Ramos2, Hugo Vega3, and Kamal Khaj3
Affiliation: University of Windsor1, Western University2, and YMCA of Western Ontario3
Research Partner: YMCA of Western Ontario
Keywords: newcomer, refugee, immigrant, children and youth, Covid-19, social distancing, restrictions, institutional directives, mental health, Durkheim, family, integration, Western Ontario

Summary

Objective: This study explores refugee and immigrant newcomers’ experiences with Covid-19 in the Windsor-Essex area of Ontario, examining how government policies and regulations around Covid-19 have affected their mental health.

Justification: This study draws on the theoretical framework of Emile Durkheim, which suggests that mental health and Covid-19 related psychological experiences are affected by variances of “integration” and “regulation” in society’s main institutions, including the family, political, religious, and occupational spaces. Institutional directives related to Covid-19, on the one hand may result in perception of a highly regulated environment, which Durkheim argued will increase fatalistic harmful practices, and on the other hand, may minimize social integration, which he claims will result in anomic practices. Newcomer youth may be especially vulnerable due to their experience of loss of traditional social networks based on their place of origin and relatively lower level of social connections in Canada due to the recency of their migration.

Practical goal: to explore whether objective and subjective family relations, in addition to youth perception of institutional directives related to Covid-19, will have significant effect on their mental health, anxiety, fear, sense of helplessness, and practices of self-harm. The study also considers whether youth’s subjective health and psychological experiences are exasperated due to their low socio-economic status and struggles in Canada and how these differ among newcomers from different country of origins, with different human capital (education and language) or social capital (ethnic and family networks), employment, and entry statuses.

Primary audience: policy makers, service providers, academics, and newcomers

Methodology

This study will draw on the theoretical framework of Emile Durkheim, particularly his work On Suicide (2006 [1897]). Durkheim’s thesis is that suicide, and the researchers add, mental health and Covid-19 related psychological experiences, are affected by variances of “integration” and “regulation” in society’s main institutions, such as family, political, religious, and occupational spaces. Integration is understood to have two poles: an objective pole and a subjective pole (see Nakhaie and Datta 2018). The family as an institution (i.e., “domestic society” constituted by parents and children) is a domain of objective and structural aspects of integration (Durkheim 2006:195; 224-225). The subjective pole of integration refers to how youth feel that they belong to a group (parent-child relations), feel supported and empowered by it, and value their membership.

              Researchers will analyze whether subjective health and psychological experiences are exasperated by low socio-economic status (Krahn, Derwing, Mulder, and Wilkinson, 2000) and whether experiences differ among newcomers from different country of origins, with different human capital (education and language) or social capital (ethnic and family networks), employment and entry statuses (unemployed, working; immigrant versus refugee). Data from the Windsor-Essex area will be compared with existing surveys, such as the Community Health Survey, in order to establish the generalizability of the findings to other newcomers in Canada.

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