Theses Doctoral

The Impact of Natural Hazard-Induced Disasters on Family Systems: A Meta-Ethnography

Fischer, Hanna-Tina Maruapula

Natural hazard-induced disasters have become a priority concern for international humanitarian child protection actors due to the increase in their intensity, frequency, and the risks they pose for children worldwide. In responding to natural hazard-induced disasters, international humanitarian child protection actors are giving increasing attention to the role of the family in promoting children's well-being. The current interventions implemented to support families in these crisis settings are limited by the lack of grounded understanding of what family is in different contexts, and an understanding of how families adapt to contextual stressors.

Using a combination of a literature review, meta-ethnography and critical reflection on how to strengthen humanitarian practice, this dissertation examines how families respond, adapt and can be better supported in natural disaster settings. Key findings are that families draw upon cultural strategies of adaptation to navigate changes in their environment and support their children’s well-being. These strategies are often disrupted by external humanitarian responders, however, hindering the ability of families to adapt and causing unintended harm. Current family-level interventions are limited by their reliance on Northern conceptions of the nuclear family, their failure to recognize the rich diversity of family arrangements and supports that exist, and their predominant focus on dynamics within the family unit, often neglecting to fully consider the interactions families have with their social and physical surroundings. This dissertation provides evidence for why and how current interventions to strengthen families in humanitarian contexts should be realigned in a manner that gives greater attention to families’ adaptation strategies, including cultural and relational aspects, builds on local strengths and avoids causing unintended harm.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Population and Family Health
Thesis Advisors
Landers, Cassie
Wessells, Michael G.
Dr.P.H., Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Published Here
August 10, 2022