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Stress and distress in migration: problems and resources of Turkish women in Denmark.

  • Mirdal, G M
Published Article
The International migration review
Publication Date
Jan 01, 1984
4 Special Issue
PMID: 12340241


Data collected through interviews with 72 Turkish female immigrants to Denmark show that migration and the inevitable confrontation with an unfamiliar cultural mileu, create several stress producing situations, which they are unable to cope due to their multiple disadvantage of being poor, uneducated, alien and female. Turkish women began arriving in Denmark after 1973, in order to join male members of their families, when Denmark began experiencing economic recession and rising unemployment. This was responsible for the lukewarm reception they faced in their host country, even from their own relatives. A feeling of uprootedness is common in these women, who, leaving behind the security of their their own society, are constantly exposed to behavior patterns that appear to be in sharp contrast to their own. An unfamiliarity with the implicit structure of the society and rules of conduct can be threatening. Having a job outside the home creates the double burden of working to earn a living and having to take full responsibility for children and the household. On the other hand, not having a job creates an excess of leisure time, due to the availability of time saving gadgets, which is spent indoors with no meanigful activities. Lack of mobility compounds the situation. While proximity to other Turks inbitits freedom for fear of criticism, staying away brings loneliness. Changing concepts of sex roles can be disruptive, especially when roles they are brought up to believe are theirs, are no longer needed. As accompanying wives, they are excessively dependent on their husbands, and are more isolated and overwoked than they would have been in their homeland. All these factors help render the women extremely powerless. The women interviewed attributed their complaints, physical or emotional, to their state as immigrants. Women's complaints, especially if they are psychological in nature, lead to the danger of the women being labelled mentally ill. Despite their general low status, these women seemed determined to solve their problems, and thus had strength and resources as well, arising out of, among other factors, the knowledge of Turkish girls that, because of their sex, they have to be prepared to make adjustments.

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