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Unaccompanied Refugee Minors

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Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com
Illustrasjonsfoto: Colourbox.com

Unaccompanied refugee minors are children and young people under 18 who come to Norway to seek asylum without their parents or other legal guardians. They are a particularly vulnerable group with different needs and rights than adult refugees.



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UngKul wants to investigate how these young people are coping after resettlement in different municipalities throughout Norway. The target group for the study contains approximately 2200 young people from countries such as Somalia, Iraq, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, and who have been granted a residence permit and resettled in Norway between 2000 and 2010. UngKul wants to learn more about how these young people have adapted and are thriving since they were granted residency in Norway.

Little is known about this group

There is currently little information about how life is for this group of children and adolescents. There is a lack of knowledge about how they experience daily life, what burdens they have and how they tackle challenges. The aim of this study is to gain more knowledge about this group's relationship to family, friends and social networks, how they thrive, their development at school and work and their mental health.

The project objective is twofold: first, we want to learn about coping resources and protective factors among this group of children and adolescents with a high risk of loneliness, behavioural problems and psychological distress. Secondly, we want to gain more knowledge about factors that contribute to psychological problems arising or persisting over time. We are particularly interested in the vulnerable phases in the years after settlement in the municipalities, or whether there are groups of unaccompanied refugee minors who have more problems than others with long-term psychological adjustment and social integration.

How will the answers be used?

The responses from the adolescents will provide important new knowledge for professionals, politicians and volunteers who work to facilitate good conditions for unaccompanied refugee minors. The information is also useful for identifying vulnerable groups among unaccompanied refugee minors, and for developing preventive measures.

About the project

The project was established with the help of funds from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in 2006. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, the project was financed by the Directorate of Integration and Diversity, the Norwegian Directorate of Health and the Directorate of Children, Youth and Family Affairs.

Five annual follow-up studies are planned. By following adolescents over several years, we will gain knowledge about stability and change in mental health over time. We will be able to determine which groups have fewer problems, which have more and which groups maintain a stable level of symptoms. Follow-up studies will also provide information about causes of change, which is particularly valuable in terms of intervention and prevention.

We collect data through the use of questionnaires and interviews. The project has been approved by the Norwegian Data Inspectorate and the Regional Committee for Medical Research Ethics (REK).

Identity development among unaccompanied refugee minors resettled in Norway

As a sub-project in our study of unaccompanied refugee minors, we have initiated a study that focuses on various issues related to identity development in this group. Children and adolescents who flee without their parents are the most vulnerable group of children. In addition to risk factors associated with conditions in their homeland, the journey and the conditions here in Norway, it is likely that unaccompanied refugee minors will also face challenges related to issues around their own identity. Questions relating to the importance of ethnicity and their adaptation in a new cultural context will be a significant challenge for many. Experiences of discrimination can lead to increased problems with creating their identity and it can also lead to psychological distress. We are looking at how unaccompanied refugee minors develop a sense of identity with their choice of profession and how they feel connected both to their own ethnic group and to Norwegian society.

Literature from the project

  • Adubofour, Millicent (2010). The relationship between perceived ethnic discrimination and ethnic identity exploration as mediated by ethnic identity crisis. Masteroppgave i psykologi, Universitetet i Tromsø.
  • Borge, N. (2009). Mestring og sosialt nettverk. Betydningen av nettverk i enslige mindreåriges flyktningers hverdag etter bosetting. Masteroppgave, Avdeling for helse- og sosialfag, Telemark University College.
  • Bragason, H. (2008). Etter flukten. En kvalitativ studie av hvordan enslige mindreårige asylsøkerjenter mestrer hverdagen sin i Norge. Master thesis in psychology, University of Oslo.
  • Christoffersen, M. (2007). But if you tell somebody, the hurt disappears. A qualitative study of how unaccompanied refugee minors cope with their problems during adaptation in Norway. Master thesis in psychology, University of Oslo.
  • Haukeland, Y. og Huth, M. (2011). ”Hvem skal jeg være- her?”. En kvalitativ studie av identitetsintervjuer med unge, alenekommende flyktninger bosatt i Norge. Hovedoppgave, profesjonsstudiet i psykologi ved Universitetet i Oslo.
  • Helland, T. (2009). Hvem skal være der for meg? Beretninger om ensomhet blant unge som kom til Norge som enslige mindreårige asylsøkere. Master thesis, Psychological institute, University of Oslo.
  • Oppedal B., Jensen L. og K. Seglem (2007). Når hverdagen normaliseres: Psykisk helse og sosiale relasjoner blant unge flyktninger som kom til Norge uten foreldrene sine. Rapport nr.1, NIPH
  • Oppedal, Brit, Seglem, KB, og Jensen, L. (2009). Avhengig og selvstendig. Enslige mindreåriges stemmer i tall og tale. NIPH-Report 2009:11.
  • Seglem, KB (2007). Interpersonal risks, resources and depression symptoms among resettled unaccompanied minor refugees. Master thesis in psychology, University of Oslo.
  • Spaun, H. (2007): Reconstructing social networks. The Importance of friends and family in the acculturation of unaccompanied minors. Master thesis in psychology, University of Oslo.
  • Stein, ALT (2008). "Jeg må satse på livet mitt.” En kvalitativ undersøkelse om mestring blant bosatte afghanske enslige mindreårige flyktninger. Master thesis in psychology, University of Oslo.
  • Søderholm, I. (2007). Mindreårige enslige asylsøkere - Har akkulturasjonsbelastninger betydning for utvikling av depresjonssymptomer? Doctoral thesis, professional study i psychology at University of Tromsø.