Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Ester R. Shapiro

Second Advisor

Karen L. Suyemoto

Third Advisor

Leila Farsakh


Political violence and war severely impact mental health and quality of life for all parties involved in conflict (World Health Organization, 2013). Families living in the occupied Palestinian territories have been shown to have alarmingly high rates of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), ranging from one to two thirds of the population presenting with trauma-related psychopathologies (e.g. Khamis, 2005; Thabet et al., 2008). These studies focused on individual distress and pointed to the importance of identifying culturally grounded, family-centered responses to protect wellness while addressing the systematic targeting of Palestinian families by Israel state policies of occupation and colonization. Therefore, when exploring Palestinian refugee family adaptation, this study engaged family resilience frameworks (Hobfoll et al., 2007; Stamm, et al., 2003; Walsh, 2006), ecosocial psychopolitical perspectives (Krieger, 2008; Prilleltensky, 2009), and decolonization and Palestine studies (e.g. Abu Lughod & Sa'di, 2009; Fanon, 1963; Maldonado-Torres, 2007; Said, 1993; Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2009). This study utilized the qualitative methods of grounded theory situational analysis (Charmaz, 2006; Clarke, 2005) and transdisciplinary community-based approaches to research (e.g. Leavy, 2011; Minkler & Wallerstein, 2003) when interviewing five extended families in partnership with a grassroots human rights organization located in a UN refugee camp in the West Bank. First identifying five families with living elders who survived Nakba, twenty-five in-depth family and individual interviews were conducted which included at least three generations in each family. An intergenerational model of family adaptation emerged from the data analysis entitled: The Palestinian Refugee Family Tree of Resilience. The three main themes of this model, labeled as Branches, included: 1) Resistance, 2) Return, and 3) Perseverance. Results showed how Palestinian families' uplifted resilience in the face of prolonged Israel state violence as they: 1) Resisted military occupation and siege; 2) Returned to their cultural roots and lands despite territorial colonization; and 3) Persevered through repetitive adversities and accumulative traumas. Additionally, a dynamic intergenerational cultivation process emerged as each of the three Branches was conceptualized as developing fruit-seeds capable of implanting resilience across generations. This model underscored key culturally-meaningful processes as families disrupted intergenerational transmissions of trauma and the rule of a major military power while creating spaces freed from the smoke of the sniper's gun. The eloquence of these family narratives as they protected the integrity of their lives emphasized the urgency of ending the ongoing state violences while nourishing the conditions that support family health and social justice.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Dissertation is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this dissertation through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.