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Historical Loss, Cultural Preservation, and Mental Health among Armenian Genocide Descendant Transitional Aged Youth


The trauma of genocide can transmit to subsequent generations through familial mental health, sociopolitical trauma, and cultural narratives to impact mental health and well-being. Investigating the specific mechanisms unique to each ethnic group impacted by genocide may illuminate more cultural, sociopolitical, and individual factors for the transmission. Although research on the mental health of Armenian genocide descendants is sparse, research on Native American and Cambodian genocide descendants suggests a common experience is unresolved historical loss, which is a sense of mourning over cultural losses due to genocide. The aim of conducting a quantitative and qualitative study was to identify whether and how Armenian American transitional aged youth experience historical loss. Nineteen youth, ages 16 to 24, were extensively interviewed to provide diverse experiences of familial migration experiences and exposure to trauma. Emergent themes through grounded theory suggest (1) historical loss is pertinent to the Armenian experience and is triggered by continued community trauma (2) this experience, through persistent feelings of hopelessness and anger, impact mental health experiences and help seeking behaviors, (3) cultural preservation, community connectedness, and engagement in activism act as transgenerational resiliency factors, and (4) marginalized Armenians are at particular risk for the impact of historical loss. For the quantitative study, 215 Armenian American transitional aged youth (ages 16-21) were recruited in a survey to examine the direct and indirect effects of acculturative and historical loss experiences on mental health and the resiliency factors that may protect against these stressors. The results demonstrated that the participants experienced high rates of historical loss in that they, on average, thought about various types of losses almost weekly. A path analysis revealed that perceived historical loss and acculturative stress both were associated with higher rates of mental health distress. Additionally, community connectedness and cultural preservation acted as resiliency factors. This model predicted 42% of the variance in mental health outcomes. Implications for mental health practitioners, schools, and community leaders working with Armenian transitional aged youth are discussed.

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