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What is UngKul?

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Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com
Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com

How do social and cultural factors influence children’s development, coping skills, competence and well-being? This is what we would like to answer through the Youth, Culture and Competence project.


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UngKul is a research programme at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH), and is an umbrella for several studies related to questions regarding the significance of ethnicity and migration on the learning, adaptation and mental health of children and adolescents.

UngKul aims to gain more knowledge about how children and adolescents of ethnic Norwegian and ethnic minority backgrounds thrive and cope with everyday life.

UngKul follows the same children and adolescents over many years. In this manner knowledge can be gained about factors that affect development, either positively or negatively. UngKul also gathers information from parents, with a particular focus on which values are important to them and their way of raising their children. 

This is UngKul: 

  • Family Study
    Children take part in the study from the 5th, 6th and 7th grade, up until they finish secondary school. These children are followed along with one of their parents, primarily their mothers. UngKul aims to follow about 4,000 families in Bergen and Oslo. UngKul in Bergen started in 2005, while the Family Study began in Oslo in January 2007. 

  • High School Study (SkoleUngKul)
    In the High School Study of UngKul multicultural secondary schools and high schools are invited to participate in a study of school environment and student mental health. The purpose is to gain knowledge about factors in the students' school life that are important for their competence, adaptation and learning in adolescence. 

  • Unaccompanied Refugee Minors 
    UngKul wants to investigate how life is like for young people who came to Norway without their parents. The study includes about 2200 children and adolescents who came to Norway as unaccompanied minors. UngKul wants to learn more about how these adolescents and young adults have adapted and thrived in the years after being granted residence in Norway. Data collection began in 2006, with a goal of following the unaccompanied minors annually for four years. 

  • Tamil Study 
    In collaboration with the Norwegian Tamil Health Organisation (NTHO), the NIPH conducted a study of mental health, quality of life, problems and competence among Tamil children and adolescents between 10 and 18 years in Norway. The purpose is to gain knowledge about how these children experience their childhood in Norway, as well as the challenges and resources they have in relation to family, school, friends and local communities. One of the parents, usually the mother, of children between 10 and 15 years is also invited. 

  • BRIDGES (SIMCUR)
    Norway, Germany and the Netherlands are collaborating on a new study of 5 year-olds and 12 year-olds. A total of 1,400 families in the three countries will be participating, of which approximately 400 are in Norway. In Norway, families with Norwegian and Turkish origin are invited to participate. BRIDGES began in March 2010 and will continue until 2013. The study examines how social policy issues, community, school and family influence children's development, adaptation and learning. We visit the families at home once a year over a three-year period. The home visits last about two hours. Information is collected from parents and children through interviews, questionnaires, and observations of the mother and child playing together. Headmasters and teachers provide information about their school and teaching approaches. 

  • Ad hoc study during the Vanni crisis in Sri Lanka in 2008-2009
    The ad hoc study was carried out as part of UngKul, and about 500 Norwegian Tamils over 18 years old in 10 counties participated in the study. The study shows that many Norwegian Tamils were unable to fulfil their daily duties and activities at work and home.

Coping, competence and well-being

Coping, competence and well-being are key concepts in UngKul. The project would like to learn more about why certain children are able to overcome difficulties and challenges, while others are sad, anxious, angry, restless, or feel lonely when problems arise. How are children and adolescents affected by relationships in the family, with friends or at school? When is it an advantage for the child to grow up with influences from different cultures, and when is it a burden?

Regardless of national origin and cultural affiliation, all children in Norway meet challenges and adversity. Some also experience dramatic events during adolescence. Most have the resources to cope with these problems, but not all. Resources are often associated with a child's characteristics and skills, their family and friends, and their cultural traditions.

Varies from culture to culture

In UngKul we want to gain more knowledge about how children and adolescents of ethnic Norwegian and ethnic minority backgrounds thrive and cope with their everyday life.

We believe that the answers to these questions may vary from culture to culture. Therefore it is important to not only include ethnic Norwegian families in the project, but also to include families from many different countries. When is it a resource for children to grow up with influences from different cultures, and when can it contribute to children feeling disheartened and sad?

Voluntary and anonymous

UngKul is subject to the ethical guidelines and rules of confidentiality enforced by the National Research Ethics Committee for Medicine and the Norwegian Data Inspectorate. This means that information provided by UngKul cannot be traced back to an individual participant. Participation in UngKul is voluntary, and participants may withdraw from the project at any time.

How will the results be used?

The results will have an impact on the government's efforts to ensure good developmental opportunities for children in multicultural Norway. This can in turn help reduce mental health problems in children and adolescents. The results will inform health authorities’ efforts to develop treatment services that take into account cultural differences and special needs of those who have or who develop mental health problems.