The Promotive Effects of Social Support for Parental Resilience in a Refugee Context: a Cross-Sectional Study with Syrian Mothers in Lebanon
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Exposure to war trauma increases the risk of negative individual and family-level outcomes. However, not all trauma-exposed individuals exhibit mental health or family dysfunction, and some function better than expected given their level of trauma exposure. Research with at-risk populations, including refugees, suggests that social support may promote positive mental health and parenting behavior in the face of adversity. We used cross-sectional data from 291 Syrian refugee mothers to test the role of perceived social support in promoting their psychological and parenting resilience, defined here as better than expected mental health and parenting behavior given level of exposure to war trauma. Psychological and parenting resilience were operationalized using the residual approach, which assesses the difference between mothers' actual score on mental health and harsh discipline measures, and the score predicted by their level of trauma exposure. Linear regression models were used to test for associations between mothers' perceived social support and their psychological and parenting resilience. Results showed that mothers' perceived social support was associated with both psychological and parenting resilience, including after controlling for covariates. Exploratory analyses further suggested that emotional support, but not instrumental support, was associated with mothers' psychological resilience. Social support may have a promotive effect on mothers' mental health and parenting behavior in a context of ongoing conflict and displacement. Identifying intervention strategies to increase social support for refugees, within the framework of a multi-layered intervention approach, could potentially contribute to children's psychosocial resilience via improved maternal mental health and parenting.