Stress Among Palestinian Women under Military Occupation; Women's Appraisal of Stressors, Their Coping Modes, and Their Mental Health


Punamäki, Raija-Leena. 1986. "Stress Among Palestinian Women under Military Occupation; Women's Appraisal of Stressors, Their Coping Modes, and Their Mental Health." International Journal of Psychology 21 (1-4): 445-62.

Author: Raija-Leena Punamäki


Psychological responses and mental health of 174 Palestinian women living in the occupied West-Bank and the Gaza Strip were studied through a stress model. Thirty-five Palestinian women living in Israel proper who had not been exposed to military occupation were interviewed as a comparison group. The stress process studied consists of women's appraisal of threat and the importance of the stressors in their lives, the estimation of their own resources to cope with stress, actual coping modes, and mental health outcomes. Women living under military occupation tended to appraise their environment as highly threatening and their experiences as strain-producing. At the same time they believed they had sufficient assets, especially collective and ideological resources, to deal with the stressors. This tendency was particularly evident among victims of political violence. Women strongly exposed to hardships of military occupation tended to employ more social and political activity and less inactive and accommodative coping modes than did less traumatized women. Exposure to stressful events, characteristic to military occupation and armed conflict, tended to deteriorate women's mental health. as indicated by severe anxiety, depression, hostile feelings and psychiatric symptoms, and also deteriorating their general health. Multiple regression analysis of the data pertaining to the stress process indicated not only the existence of objective stressors but also the appraisal of their harmfulness, the coping modes as well as vulnerability-protective factors which determine the outcomes of the stress process. A good economic situation, sufficient social support, and religious commitment functioned as protective factors in stress process, i.e., they were able to diminish the impact of exposure to stressors on women's mental health. In the case of the Palestinian women the hardships due to military occupation and national struggle initiated a different stress process than did the daily life difficulties. This indicates that in studies on psychological functioning in a political and armed conflict, the collective level of coping, values, norms, ideology as well as the concrete political aims of the society should be included in analysis and interpretation.

Keywords: military occupation, mental health, depression, anxiety, female civilians

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Trauma, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militarization Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 1986

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