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Understanding the Support Available to Refugee Children and their Families


There are approximately 37 million forcibly displaced children worldwide, many of whom have been exposed to significant trauma prior to leaving their home country and whilst journeying to their new home. Refugee children also face significant challenges when they arrive in a new country, with many facing a period of time living in camps or other settings where they are at risk of further trauma. Unsurprisingly, refugee children show high rates of mental disorders. Understanding how mental health outcomes can be improved for this particularly vulnerable group is essential.

Social support can be a major protective factor for trauma-exposed children, being associated with reduced risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders. However, refugee children face profound erosion of their support structures. Their caregivers are often experiencing extreme stress relating to the multitude of complex challenges refugees routinely face, and/or suffering with significant mental health problems themselves. Refugee children frequently lose their wider support networks due to separation from peers, extended families, and other sources of support (e.g., teachers).  Moreover, refugee children often find themselves unwelcome in their host countries, with cultural/language barriers being obstacles to forming new social networks, and negative attitudes towards them leading to exclusion or active victimisation. Each of these factors may maintain or increase child distress.


Project Summary

With the support of The Trauma Centre in Cape Town and HAMI NGO in Iran, the community completed 92 qualitative interviews with refugee parents and children in South Africa, and refugee parents in Iran. These data will be analysed to provide insight into the opportunities provided by informal sources of support for refugee children and the barriers to receiving and accessing such support. It is expected that this research will yield several publications and provide the foundation for future funded research activity in this area.

The community have also used the Generator project to consolidate collaborative links across the GW4 institutions and with external partners, such as The Trauma Centre and HAMI NGO as above, and other academic institutions (including Manchester, Oxford, Turkey and Afghanistan) who will be engaged with research outputs and projects going forward.

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter