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Young Asylum Seekers A Grounded Theory study of teenager’s identity development and mental health while living as refugee centre inhabitants.

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Presentation on theme: "Young Asylum Seekers A Grounded Theory study of teenager’s identity development and mental health while living as refugee centre inhabitants."— Presentation transcript:

1 Young Asylum Seekers A Grounded Theory study of teenager’s identity development and mental health while living as refugee centre inhabitants.

2 ”Wasted lives” or a new start? In his book ”Wasted lives” Zygmunt Bauman (2004) gives a sinister description of the modern globalised world with its human ”outcasts”, especially those who escape from impossible living conditions in their home countries to seek survival elsewhere. Many of them get into other countries as asylum seekers, meeting new problems to manage.

3 Project motivation A new start: Results of the study will be used to develop a research based intervention for preventative work among young asylum seekers. The childrens’ own participation in the project will be of great importance. We want them to be involved in improving their start in a foreign country.

4 Northern area research The University of Tromsø, Northern Norway, Faculty of Health Sciences: RBUP (Regional Centre of Child and Youth Mental Health) – Health Region North. Financed by Health Directorate of Norway Tasks: Research and development, teaching,communication related to preventative and clinical knowledge in the interdisciplinary working area of child and adolescents mental health.


6 Asylum centres Norway 2009 The system started in 1987 – today 21.000 places, aprox ¼ children. Region North: 30 ordinary refugee centres (children with families) 20 unaccompanied minors (Age 15-18) Many of them in rural areas or small communities. Children - total amount aprox 1700. Different countries, societies, cultures.

7 Conceps Asylum seeker: A person who on his or her own initiative, and without prior notification, asks the authorities in Norway for protection and recognition as a refugee. Refugee: (UN Refugee Convention) A person who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership or a particular social group or political opinion.

8 Research Few studies on mental health condition of asylum seekers, more on refugees. Higher incidence of psychopathology among refugees than in no-refugee population. Sweden (NKVTS 2006): - 50 % of unaccompanied minors in need of psychiatric help. (Depression and PTSD) - Apathetic children in families (Bondegård 2004)

9 Department report (Norway): 0,05 % of all asylum seeking children hospitalised in child-/youth psychiatry institutions 3,3 % received treatment in child-/youth psychiatry policlinics NO EARLIER RESEARCH ON THIS IN NORTHERN NORWAY

10 A project in progress A one year pilot is done. Now applying for financing a 3-year Phd project Main focus: How living in a refugee centre in a rural North Norwegian community influences the mental health and identity development during the teenage period of life.

11 A rural North Norwegian community Long distances to neighbours, shops, cinemas, school, cafees. Few buses, no trains. Some coast areas have speedboats or coastal steamer for transport Dark period aprox 2 months Midnightsun ” 2 months Long winters, snow, low temperature, rain Short summers, seldom above 10-15 degrees celcius, often rain and cloudy.

12 Preliminary results Pilot project: Data from 10 asylum centres in the region. Main aim: Describe the conditions of children living in government refugee-processing centres. Qualitative method chosen for the benefit of: - Meeting the informants face to face. - Observing facilities and buildings, rooms, equipments, standards of cleanliness and maintenance. - Observing nonverbal communication. - Sensing the ambiance and possible tensions. - Following interaction courses and ongoing social processes.

13 Summary of indications Living conditions are poor for children in these centers Mental health is poor among many parents and other adults Limited economic sources Lack of activities and social arenas Long periods of residence Low standards all together Inadequate environment for raising a child

14 Quote from center manager: ”I tell all our recidents that the worst place you’ll ever live in Norway is at the reception center” All informants agreed that the standards of housing facilities in centers are very low

15 Long waiting periods for answers to asylum applications In 2005 nearly 300 children had been living in asylum centres more than 3 years. Some up to 6 years of childhood in asylum center Waiting time regarded the hardest strain for both adults and children, and constitutes the highest risk of mental health problems.

16 Informants in pilot project: - Center leaders and employers, - professionals: teachers and nurses connected to the centers reported from their experiences No children or youths so far interviewed

17 Next step: Counting Children In! Main research questions: a) How do adolescents communicate their experiences with life as asylum seekers? b) In this particular life-situation; What are the critical factors connected to the adolescents’ understanding of themselves, their identity development and mental health?

18 Fieldwork Interviews, observations, participation, informal conversations, document analysis Building confidence with informants, develop relations and simultaniously building knowledge of the field. Following apprentice/master model

19 Research design: Grounded Theory No absolute rule, but general principles, flexible instructions Creating analysis and new theory based on empirical data Trying to understand the life of informants Behaviour, utterances, actions are studied Looking for analytical significance from start of fieldwork Data early systematised, divided into categories, forming new questions, followed by new sample of interviewees Aiming at conceptualising identity processes and mental health.

20 Ethnographic film If permission; Inviting some teenagers to cooperate on a film story about their life as asylum seekers. If informant’s consent; –Follow them with a camera in daily life situations. –Taping communication and actions of importance. –Taping interviews. –Shooting social processes they involve in. –Editing a film with their cooperation in how to interpret their actions and what to show.

21 Ethically challenging Language problems may be difficult. A skilled interpreter necessary. Impossible with film to hide identities. Important to make sure integrity is well taken care of. A backup team of skilled professionals in mental health and social care.

22 4 main conceptual areas for analysis of new data 1. Double liminality: In-between stage in life, a treshold to another stage Neither child nor adult, neither citizen of home country nor of the new, still foreign country In between two cultural existences and two stages in life. Coping with being between different existencial levels of transition

23 2. Resilience: Resistance to hardships and strains in life Important is - the experience of manageing what is expected from you - to be surrounded by confident adults - an overview of your own existence

24 4. Identity Comprizes the other 3 concepts: Identity is developed within a context, during processes of being in a liminal state position and with the continuous struggle for resilience in the various more or less difficult challenges in life. For these teenagers, the double liminality state constitutes an extra burden.

25 3. Context: -Society, culture, ethnicity in the surrounding environment How do the young persons express their experience from participating in relations on social arenas in the community? -Age differences? -Gender specific norms? -Stigma, discrimination, racism?

26 Conclusion Necessary for succeeding in preventative work is: knowing how the actual life situation is experienced by those who are the subjects at risk themselves. Important using scientific methods that are well fit for meeting the subjects and create data material for analysis in processes where theory is integrated with the empirical world.

27 For this purpose we have chosen an interdisciplinay theory approach: We will benefit from psychology, anthropology and sociology In analysing identity development within contextual frames regarded as limitations and possibilities for young asylum seekers being social agents in North Norwegian refugee centers.

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