Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Resilience of Children with Refugee Statuses: A Research Review

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Resilience of Children with Refugee Statuses: A Research Review

Article excerpt

Countries around the world, including Canada, are becoming more culturally, ethnically, and linguistically diverse because of the reception of children and families through involuntary migration. Refugees are defined by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as children and adults who have migrated to other countries due to fear of persecution in their country because of factors such as race, religion, nationality, or political opinion (Fantino & Colak, 2001). As of 2014, 51% of the 19.5 million registered refugees across the globe were children and youth, the highest figure in more than a decade (UNHCR, 2014). Every day, nearly 5,000 children become refugees, with a vast number growing up and spending their entire lives in refugee camps (UNHCR, 2014). Approximately 34,000 children are unaccompanied at the point of arrival or separated from family after arriving in a new country (UNHCR, 2014), which is notable given that unaccompanied minors often experience greater time in refugee camps awaiting decisions about placement and are at greater risk for mental health concerns (Fazel, Reed, Panter-Brick, & Stein, 2012; Wilkinson, 2002). Therefore, it is critical to identify factors that promote resilience at each stage of the migration process for refugee youth.

Refugee Children in Canada

Canada has demonstrated a well-established effort toward resettling families and children as well as a public interest in providing support through active volunteer groups at the individual, community, and agency level (Government of Canada, 2016). Refugees from nearly every country have migrated to Canada over the years, including countries from Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Central and South America, and more recently Iraq and Syria. According to UNHCR (2014) over the last 10 years, approximately 26,000 refugees arrived in Canada each year, with 42% of this number successfully claiming refugee status, of which 36% are children. The countries where families are migrating from at any given time reflect the current world crises. For example, because of the current humanitarian crisis in Syria, Canada has welcomed more than 29,000 refugees from Syria from November 2015 to July 2016 (Government of Canada, 2016) and is planning on receiving thousands more. This sizable increase in the number of refugees entering Canada may yield economic concerns as the refugee population continues to increase and requires more resources. Given that the European Union (EU) has started to set restrictions on the number of refugees who can enter from Syria, Canada's role in receiving Syrian refugees as well as understanding how to promote their resilience is critical. The unique resilience factors that accompany Syrian children and families, such as peer support and a sense of community, may be protective against the development of psychosocial concerns throughout the migration process (Daud, af Klinteberg, & Rydelius, 2008).

Current Review

Because of the substantial growth in refugee children that are entering Canada and other countries around the world, there is global interest in identifying factors that are associated with risk and positive adaptation of children. Refugee children can experience numerous stressors and traumatic events because of their migration, resettlement, and acculturation experiences. These stressors can fall broadly within three periods: premigration (e.g., trauma experienced while in their country of origin), migration (e.g., hostility encountered while travelling through supposedly safe countries before reaching their host country), and postmigration periods (e.g., separation from family after migration; Pacione, Measham, & Rousseau, 2013). Although the literature on refugee youth is filled with examples of risk for many types of mental health and educational challenges associated with each period of migration (Fazel et al., 2012), researchers are increasingly holding the viewpoint that it is important to view refugee children's experiences through a lens of recovery and resilience (Masten, 2012) because focusing on risk alone paints an incomplete picture of refugee youth's lives. …

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