Except for occasional exceptions like Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield in the early 90s, modern conflicts tend to take place in populated cities and towns where innocent civilians are at just as much risk as those doing the fighting.
Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work Assistant Professor Cindy Sousa is among the researchers looking at the effects of political violence on families in these war-torn areas and the mechanisms and characteristics that allow some families to weather the stress of this experience.
Sousa will be talking about her research and the research of others in a talk titled “When the ‘War Front’ and the ‘Home Front’ Collide: Political Violence, Resilience, and the Family” to be held from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 7, at Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work.
“Almost 90 percent of the victims of political violence are civilians, mostly women and children, and the majority of the world’s 20 million refugees and 150 million internally displaced people are fleeing political violence,” says Sousa. “The family is a central source of protection and resilience for these victims but we still don’t have a complete understanding of the characteristics and supports that matter most.”
As an easy to understand example of the difficulty inherent in trying to research resiliency in families, Sousa points to work she’s done with a group of women in the West Bank.
“Some of these women try very hard to shelter their children from reports of violence on the news while others think it’s important for their children to see what’s happening. What might work in one family, might not in another,” says Sousa.
And while researchers are rightfully concerned about the effects of political violence on children, Sousa says attention also needs to be paid to parents.
“Think about the stress parents in the United States felt when Sandy Hook happened as they tried to figure out how best to deal with the topic with their children. Now imagine having to constantly negotiate those sorts of issues. It’s incredibly taxing to parents’ health and well-being.”
Sousa believes that when it comes to providing support and services to the victims of political violence, trained social work professionals play a vital role.
“Sometimes these organizations come in that are well meaning but they try to put into place programs that aren’t culturally relevant or sustainable,” says Sousa. “Social workers really value the dignity of individuals and cultures and are committed to creating long-term solutions that can be maintained locally.”
Recent courses taught by Sousa include:
- Foundation Practice I and II-Fall 2012 & Spring 2013; Spring 2014
- Perspectives on Social Welfare: Local to Global-Fall 2012; 2013
- Community Strategies and Assessment: Advocacy and Action-Spring 2013; 2014
- Community Practice, Policy, and Advocacy (advanced macro social work practice courses) I (Fall 2013) and II (Spring 2014)
The GSSWSR is one of the nation’s oldest academic social-work programs. The school provides a learning environment that is supportive and intellectually rigorous, encouraging critical thinking and the expression of social-work values through classes, field-based training, research, and active civic engagement in collaboration with the College as a whole.