Family of Origin: Lessons from Exile

  • Hadidja Nyiransekuye Bridgewater State University
Keywords: social work, refugees, family, Africa


Family of origin is a special cocoon into which each individual is born. It can offer warmth, support and protection, or it can be a source of heartache and pain, if it does not offer the nurturing we often crave. Exile, the forced displacement of individuals and families from their homeland through events not of their own making, can be a life-changing experience during which decisions are made hastily to ensure the survival of the people involved. Families are torn apart because of exile. Family members die alone; some get lost and are separated from the group. The separations create a hole in the heart of the family. The experience leaves scars that are hard to heal, and in turn impacts future decisions for one’s career path or the meaningful relationships one can build with family and friends. According to Hutchison (2011), there is no one way to define family. Family of origin may mean the nuclear family, comprised of a mother, father and children. It may also mean in addition to the direct parents and their biological children, the uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and in-laws. For the purpose of this paper, the second definition is used to define family of origin.

Author Biography

Hadidja Nyiransekuye, Bridgewater State University
School of Social Work-Assistant Professor