Immigrant and Refugee Social Networks: Determinants and Consequences of Social Support Among Women Newcomers to Canada

Michaela Hynie, Valorie A. Crooks, Jackeline Barragan


Recent immigrants and refugees (newcomers) vary on many dimensions but do share similar challenges. Newcomers must rebuild social networks to obtain needed social support but often face social exclusion because of their race, language, religion, or immigrant status. In addition, most have limited access to personal, social, and community resources. Effects of situational and personal variables on the benefits and limitations associated with the social networks of female newcomers were explored through interviews and focus groups with 87 women from 7 communities. Using thematic analysis, the authors identify 5 sources of informal support across all 7 communities, which were almost exclusively limited to co-ethnic relationships, and the types of support, limitations, and reciprocity within each. Perceived support was strongest from family and close friends and, when support from close relationships was unavailable, from primary care providers. The results suggest that co-ethnic peer support networks may be overwhelmed in newcomer communities because of their limited size and resources.

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