The mental health and psychological well-being of refugee children: an exploration of risk, resilience and protective factors

Prof Doc Thesis

Mohamed, Shaheen 2012. The mental health and psychological well-being of refugee children: an exploration of risk, resilience and protective factors. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Pyschology
AuthorsMohamed, Shaheen
TypeProf Doc Thesis

The purpose of this research was to investigate the perceptions of refugee children, refugee parents and school staff regarding what they believe contributed to the positive adaptation of refugee children after facing adversity. This research examined how the participants understood the factors inherent in the new social milieu and its effect on refugee children’s mental health and psychological well-being. This included an exploration of resilience and the role of risk and protective factors. Few studies have focused on exploring views from a resilience perspective and studies that have, have also tended to focus on exploring factors through quantitative rather than qualitative measures. This mixed methods piece of ‘real world’ research, adopted a ‘what’s working well’ perspective, aimed to explore the important voices of children, parents and staff.
The views of three refugee parents and twenty one refugee children aged between 9 and 19 years old, of various ethnic origins and length of stay in the UK (six months to eight years) were explored through semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed using a thematic analysis approach. The children’s level of well-being in different domains such as school was assessed using the Multidimensional Student Life Satisfaction Survey (Huebner, 2001). The views of sixty-three staff members were also gathered via questionnaire.
Findings from this research reveal the valuable perspectives parents and young people can offer. The psychological construct of resilience was of relevance to the children in the present research, with several themes reflecting factors that have been shown to impact on resilience in positive or adverse way. Young people’s comments suggested that they were not protected from all negative experiences, but were able to succeed in the face of such adversity due to a number of factors that provided a defence against it. The key differences that children identified, that could be protective as well as a risk for them featured in the following main themes: factors within the family, experiences at school and individual/personal characteristics. Staff, parent and child responses were triangulated to provide a rich picture of the potential protective factors operating within the school and family environment.
Implications for future practice for schools and Educational Psychologists in areas such as the voice of the child, bullying, home-school and community partnerships and mental health interventions are discussed. Methodological issues are also considered, together with suggestions for future research to create a deeper understanding of the role of culture, schools, coping styles and the community. Further opportunities for research exploring risk and resilience in unaccompanied refugee children are suggested.

Keywordsrefugees; adaptation; mental health
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintJun 2012
Publication process dates
Deposited08 Jul 2013
Publisher's version
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