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Melzak, S. (2013). Working with families of African Caribbean origin: understanding issues around immigration and attachment. J. Child Psychother., 39(1):118-125.

(2013). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 39(1):118-125

Working with families of African Caribbean origin: understanding issues around immigration and attachment

Sheila Melzak

, by Elaine Arnold, London, Jessica Kingsley, 2012, 160 pp., £19.99, ISBN: 978-1-84310-992-1

It has been a real pleasure to read and to think about Elaine Arnold’s book in which she explores the interacting psychological, developmental, cultural, social and political themes in the lives of four generations of African Caribbean families. With roots in the 1950s and 1960s when, in the interests of economic survival, parents came to Britain leaving young children with extended family members in the Caribbean, sometimes for years, the book explores the detail of what occurred when parents and children were reunited and places these relational dynamics in their context.

Arnold includes the terrible and shameful historical details that predate the immigration of the ‘Windrush’ generation and much new information about the specifics of immigration from the Caribbean, alongside references to relevant research and a summary of her attachment-based research on both mothers and daughters separated as a result of these migrations. This gives readers in general, and particularly those working with African Caribbean families, a rich source of specific historical, cultural and psychological observations and analyses about the external world, the internal world and the intergenerational history of individuals we might encounter in a clinical, social or professional context. An extremely helpful and detailed counterbalance is thus provided for any tendency on the part of workers to stereotype either black foreigners or black British people and only see them through the lens of cultural difference thus avoiding key and specific experiences and the internal representations of these experiences. I especially appreciated Arnold’s focus on history and complexity and her capacity to think in a truly psychosocial way.

I believe I was asked to write this review because I am clinical director of a small charity working with young asylum seekers and refugees from all over the world, most of whom have been separated from their families through violence. Others live in families who have experienced significant losses of family members and community. These traumatic losses are difficult to mourn and significantly interfere with family life, relationships and individual development.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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