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Refugee trauma work: Effects on intimate relationships and vicarious posttraumatic growth



Bearing witness to Syrian refugee atrocities may result in aid-workers' vicarious traumatization (VT). This study examined work stressors and organizational support and their associations with vicarious posttraumatic growth (VPTG) and intimate relationships. It also examined the potential mediating effects of differentiation of the self and finding meaning in trauma-work.


Aid-workers (N = 317) from organizations in Jordan were surveyed. Univariate statistics and structural equation modeling (SEM) were utilized to test hypothesized relationships.


Increased VT was associated with increased VPTG, decreased intimacy and decreased differentiation. Increased needs addressed by NGOs was associated with increased VPTG, differentiation, and finding meaning. Increased trauma-exposure was associated with increased finding meaning. Increased co-workers support was associated with increased intimacy and finding meaning. Higher differentiation was associated with decreased VPTG, and increased intimacy. Whereas, increased finding meaning was associated with increased VPTG and intimacy. Differentiation partially mediated the associations between VT, and both VPTG and intimacy, and between needs at work and VPTG. Differentiation fully mediated the association between needs at work and intimacy. Finding meaning fully mediated the associations between extent of trauma-exposure, and both VPTG and intimacy, and between co-workers support and VPTG; needs at work and intimacy. It partially mediated the associations between needs at work and VPTG; co-workers support and intimacy.


The study is cross-sectional and generalization is limited to aid-workers who provide services to Syrian refugees in Jordan.


Organizational support is crucial in mitigating the negative impacts of trauma-work, and in enabling a nurturing space for potential growth.

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