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This study was executed with a phenomenological perspective. Phenomenological research attempts to eliminate everything that represents a prejudgment, to perceive knowledge of non-reflected everyday experiences (Moustakas, 1994). The second analysis reviewed the data considering narrative theory. Narrative theory attempts to understand how a person makes sense out of an event into a personal story (Hockey, 2016)


Both confirmability and dependability are established by transparency of the research process (Cresswell, 2007; Yin, 2011). The researcher has documented and described all procedures throughout the process and these documents will be stored for two years. Before data collection, a pilot study of the interview was conducted, to test out questions and adjust according to possible difficulties. Cresswell (2007) argues that the personal experience of the researcher could be considered as part of the findings. In this study, the researcher’s own experience has been noted and discussed throughout the study with other researchers. These notes contained a rapport of inferences, interpretations and assumptions of the researcher during the process of collecting and analyzing the data. For credibility, the researcher held critical discussions in which consensus was sought with fellow researchers. In phenomenological research the focus is put on the general essence of the phenomenon (Cresswell, 2007). Sousa (2014) explains that because the researcher identifies meaning structures between participants, the participants cannot provide validity after analysis, because the participant’s viewpoint is not the same as the researcher’s. This was reported along with the findings.
The language barrier in this study has affected the dependability of this study. The researcher needs to depend on the interpreter’s translation and cannot verify if the translation was accurate. Dependability has also been affected due to the translation from Arabic to Dutch and then to English. Translation from one language rarely translates directly to another language creating some error in the findings (Marshall & Rossman, 2011). Due to the researcher’s role in the interaction with the participants, the researcher provides a personal interpretation that may have been different with another researcher (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015).
Transferability refers to the need for transferable findings between researcher and those being studied (Cresswell, 2007). To increase transferability, Cresswell (2007) suggests to present descriptions of participants and context to be able to generalize the findings to other groups, settings or time points. To ensure anonymity, some data has been modified by, for example, slightly changing use of words when this does not seem to interfere with the result presented. In phenomenology, the possibility to generalize is not about the sample size, but the variability with which the phenomenon appears in the descriptions (Sousa, 2014) and is discussed in the findings. Additionally, purposive sampling and using extensive quotations in the analysis and presentation of the findings should increase transferability of the study (Mu, 2008).
Several steps could ensure validity in a phenomenological approach. Sousa (2014) explains that internal consistency is achieved by logically connecting questions, sample, data collection and analyses to the methodological approach. Some researchers claim that there is a need for the intentional experience (consciousness of the experience) (Sousa, 2014). The intentional experience is the perceiving, feeling, thinking, remembering or judging of the object that is brought into consciousness (Moustakas, 1994). Furthermore, you could discern between the psychological existence of the experience (describing it as experienced) and the shared essence of the object/ phenomenon: (establishing essential characteristics), making a synthesis of identification (the accumulation of the object in transcriptions), and synthesizing the psychological meaning (making themes of the experiences that appear in several transcripts) (Moustakas, 1994; Sousa, 2014). In this study, the researcher perceived the object which is intentionally experienced (perceived, felt, thought about, remembered or judged) to be the mother as the participant explains her experiences from the perspective of being a mother. Validity in this study is attempted by the researcher’s familiarization with phenomenology and clarification of the perspective

Sample selection

The population selected for this study were refugee mothers originally from Syria. Other criteria were the presence of one or several child(ren) who were currently living in Belgium. The number of years present in Belgium had to be at least two years and maximal four years. An overview of the criteria is shown in Appendix A.
In this study one participant was recruited by purposive sampling in The Netherlands, which served as a pilot interview, and six participants were recruited by purposive sampling in Belgium. The pilot participant was initially chosen to serve solely as a measure to detect deficiencies in the method and took place in the Netherlands due to the researcher’s whereabouts. However, in the analysis sufficient commonalities were found and it was decided to include the pilot due to ethical and research benefits. Purposive sampling was done by approaching local organizations that provide services for refugees and asking if they are willing to ask among their clients if there are mothers interested in participating. The organizations were offered study findings in return for their assistance. Selection criteria for participants and data collection can be found in Appendix B.
At the end of 2017 a number of organizations were contacted to ask assistance in finding mothers who were willing to participate. Potential participants that were provided by five professionals from organizations throughout Belgium received an informed consent document in Arabic language electronically or via the organization. A draft of the informed consent document is provided in Appendix C. The participant was contacted at least one week after receiving the document to answer questions, verify willingness to participate and to ask if a translator will be desired during the interview. At this stage, one potential participant refused to participate. This resulted in a sample of 7 participants including the pilot.
The sample entails mothers with children between the age of 10 months to 25 years old. Four mothers had two children and three mothers had four or five children. All mothers were married and all parents and children were reunified in Belgium. Three mothers stated to be Muslim, two mothers stated to be Christian and two mothers stated to be Catholic. Four mothers had a university degree from Syria and six mothers had a job in Syria. They were in Belgium for two years up to three years and two months. The mothers lived in different communities in Belgium. Four out of seven mothers stated in the interview that they planned to stay in the host country, while three mothers stated that they didn’t know if they would stay

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Data collection

To answer the research questions, an open in-depth interview was utilized. A full overview of the background questions and themes can be found in Appendix D. The participants that were willing to participate were asked where the interview should take place and an appointment was set up for February 2018. All participants chose to have the interview at home. At the appointment, if there were no further questions, the participant was asked when he or she would like to sign the document (before or after the interview). Some participants chose to sign it after the interview and some participant signed it immediately. Documents were provided for the participant, interpreter and researcher and the signature was placed on an Arabic, English and Dutch document by all three parties (if the interpreter was present). It was stressed that the participant was able to withdrawal at any point in the research process until data is reported. Three interviews were conducted in Dutch or English and four in Arabic with the presence of an interpreter. The interpreter was a Dutch master student of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Belgium. The researcher and interpreter spoke together in the language that the mother was best skilled in (Dutch or English). In the interview, the researcher formulated a question for the mother, the interpreter stated this in Arabic, the mother answered with a story and the interpreter summarized the story in a couple sentences. The summarized version of the interpreter was written in the transcriptions of the mothers that spoke in Arabic. Transcriptions were written in the original language and were either in Dutch or English. The interview was audio taped and the recordings remain stored on a private computer for two years along with transcriptions of the interviews and will then be destroyed

Data analysis

Throughout the process of collecting data and analysis, the researcher wrote down assumptions and judgements. Moustakas (1994) refers to this as ‘the Epoche’, which is a process in which there is awareness of judgements, inferences and interpretations and every aspect has equal value; no position is taken on the phenomenon. Immediately after every interview the researcher transcribed the interview to ensure that there would be no mix up between interviews. After all interviews had taken place, the researcher searched for commonalities and differences in the interviews by reading the transcripts thoroughly and eventually forming initial codes. The codes were in English or Dutch. For the textural analysis, significant meaning units were developed and grouped in subthemes that were common in the transcripts. The formulated subthemes were written in English. After subthemes were identified, the researcher formed themes in which a number of subthemes seem to coincide. Before discussions about the analysis, the Dutch quotations that were identified as codes were translated to English by the researcher. As stated before, after discussion with another researcher, it was decided to include the pilot interview in the analysis and reporting due to a number of general commonalities with interesting quotations. For the structural analysis, codes were formed for text that represented past perceptions, present perceptions and future perceptions and were compared between the participants. Cresswell (2007) suggests that a phenomenological design reports a list of themes, a textural description of what happened with verbatim examples, a structural description of how this happened and a composite description containing how and what. In this report the analysis is shortened and therefore contains a list of themes, a textural description and a structural description. An overview of the research procedure is presented in Appendix E

Ethical considerations

In interviews the interaction affects the interviewees and the knowledge produced affects our understanding of people, which results in ethical issues that need to be considered (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015). Marshall and Rossman (2011) state that respect, justice and beneficence are moral principles for interview research. Respect stands for privacy, anonymity, and the right to participate and refuse to participate. Beneficence ensures that no harm will be done and justice seeks the benefits of the study for the participants (Marshall Rossman, 2011). The purpose of the interview should benefit the participating subjects, the group they represent and humanity (Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015). Therefore, an assessment was made considering risks and benefits on physical, psychological, social, economic, legal and dignitary level (Yin, 2011). For this study, knowledge obtained from this research might help services who work with Syrian refugee parents to better assist and support the family. For participants, possible psychological risks were stress, embarrassment, intrusion, a sense of failure or coercion and changes in self-understanding. Possible psychological benefits were feeling empowered by taking part in research, finding the experience interesting, increase of confidence, increase of knowledge, and an opportunity to collect thoughts and develop new ideas about the world (Arksey & Knight, 1999; Brinkmann & Kvale, 2015). In order to avoid economical and physical hindrance for the participant, the researcher had travelled to the participant’s location which also decreased the amount of time they spent on the study. The participant was also free to choose the day and time. To control for unwanted legal, dignitary and social risks anonymity and confidentiality were secured. Anonymity was secured by coding the participants and by changing personal information. Confidentiality was secured by discussing data solely with fellow researchers and the interpreter. In addition to secure justice, without the participants’ knowledge about this the researcher provided a small gift after the interview took place. If a service was involved in the sampling of participants, it is important to stress that refusal of participation or later withdrawal from the research will not have consequences on the provided services (Darlington & Scott, 2002). Therefore, this was stressed in the informed consent document

What is a refugee?
What are human rights
How is Belgium involved in all this? .
What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
What is parenting?
What influences the process of parenting?
Previous research on parenting for refugees
The research gap about refugee parents.
The theoretical framework of this study
Sample selection
Data collection
Data analysis
Ethical considerations
List of themes
Textural description
Structural description
Experiences of Syrian mothers
Time in relation to experiences of Syrian mothers
Future research and clinical implications

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