The study examines the connection between exposure to terror attacks from the Gaza Strip, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, cultural identities, and social support among immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) to Israel.
The study was conducted using a community sample of immigrants from the FSU to Israel living within a radius of 60 kilometers from the Gaza Strip (n = 601).
The study was cross-sectional and used anonymous questionnaires. The following scales were applied: the Measure of Exposure to Terrorism (Pat-Horenczyk, R., Abramovitz, R., Peled, O., Brom, D., Daie, A., & Chemtob, C. M. (2007). Adolescent exposure to recurrent terrorism in Israel: Post-traumatic distress and functional impairment. Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 77 (1), 76–85), the PTSD Checklist – Civilian Version (Weathers, F., Litz, B., Herman, D., Huska, J., & Keane, T. (1993). The PTSD checklist (PCL): Reliability, validity, and diagnostic utility. Paper presented at the ninth annual meeting of the international society for traumatic stress studies), the Social Network Interview (Mueller, D. P. (1980). Social networks: a promising direction for research on the relationship of the social environment to psychiatric disorder. Social Science &Medicine—Medical Psychology & Medical Sociology, 14A (2), 147–161), the Scale of Identification with Cultural Groups (Roccas, S. (1997). Factors affecting identification with groups: Personality, group characteristics, and interaction between them. The Hebrew University), and the Scale of Adherence to Group Cultural Practices (Birman, D., & Tyler, F. B. (1994). Acculturation and alienation of Soviet Jewish refugees in the United States. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 120 (1), 101–115).
The study results demonstrated that social support received from both the immigrant group and the larger society buffered the effect of exposure to terror attacks on PTSD symptoms among immigrants. Both components of cultural identity, identification with the group and adherence to the group’s cultural practices, predicted social support received from the group. The effects were demonstrated for the support received from the immigrant group and the larger society.
The study results indicate that the immigrant group and the larger society may provide social support to immigrants in a stressful situation. The bicultural identity enables immigrants to receive social support from both cultural groups. Thus, the present study advances our understanding of the connection between the immigrants’ bicultural identity and psychological well-being/distress. On the theoretical level, the present study advances our understanding of the immigrants’ coping with the potentially traumatizing situations combining ideas of the conservation of resources (Hobfoll, S. E. (2011). Conservation of resources theory: Its implication for stress, health, and resilience. In S. Folkman (Ed.) The Oxford handbook of stress, health, and coping. Oxford University Press) and acculturation theories (Berry, J. W. (2005). Acculturation: Living successfully in two cultures. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29 (6), 697–712). From the practical point of view, the study results indicate that for immigrants to cope successfully with life-threatening situations, helping services must ensure the immigrants’ access to the resources of both the immigrant group and the larger society and strengthen the immigrants’ bicultural identity.