Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Barry McPherson

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


This thesis involves secondary analysis of epidemiological data concerning a large cohort of Southeast Asian refugees resettled in British Columbia, Canada, who were surveyed three times over a ten year period. Male-female differences in the mental health impact of adaptational demands, such as the acquisition of host language skills and securing employment were the focus for the thesis. The psychometric properties of the mental health scales used in the study demonstrated high internal consistencies and construct validity in both male and female samples. There was evidence to suggest that the external validity of the study was somewhat compromised by the attrition of single individuals as well as those who were not available for employment or who spoke no English at the time of the first wave of data collection. Although men had an initial advantage over women in knowledge of English ability, progress in acquiring the language was equal in both sex groups. Confirming the results of previous studies, women were found to use fewer strategies than men to learn English. However, closer examination of these strategies demonstrated that not all were associated were better language outcomes. Women appeared to gain more than men from formal language training, whether through E.S.L. classes or use of a private tutor. Although working outside the home contributed little or nothing to women’s acquisitions of English, employment provided a substantial language benefit to men. This study found little evidence to support the theory that newly arrived refugee women are relatively sheltered from stress while refugee men, attempting to provide for their families, suffer a mental health burden resulting from the stresses of finding employment and learning the host language. In a similar vein, the data did not support the theory that there is a mental health advantage to women working in the home in the early years after arrival, and working outside the home after being in Canada for some time. Women had more somatic symptoms than men throughout the course of study, while men were more likely to be anxious than women. Unemployment was a predictor of depression and anxiety for all refugees. At the end of the refugees’ first decade in Canada, there were pronounced gender differences in the relationship between language ability and mental health: women who spoke not English were more likely to be anxious than men in the same circumstances whereas, among those speaking the language well, men were more anxious than women. Occupational decline over the three waves of data collection from levels held in Vietnam were not associated with increased levels of depression and sommatization, nor with greater likelihood of anxiety. By Wave 3, occupational decline had been arrested, with both men and women experiencing gains from their pre-migration levels. There was a slight association between these occupational gains and feelings of well-being, particularly for men. That is, acquiring gains in occupational prestige appeared to be released to improvements in refugees’ quality of life. Implications for theory and policy are discussed as well as future research directions.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season