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A qualitative study exploring refugee minors’ personal accounts of post-traumatic growth and positive change processes in adapting to life in the UK

An emerging field of psychological research is concerned with the experiences of positive change following traumatic events. To date, few studies have examined this phenomenon with non-adult and non-western populations. However, findings from previous studies exploring trauma reactions within non-western child refugee populations have commented upon the ‘remarkable resilience’ that young people demonstrate in surviving a wide range of human atrocities. In the UK, many asylum seeking young people looked after by social services not only seem to manage and cope well with the effects of their traumatic experiences, but some go on to achieve a very high quality of life, for example excelling in academic pursuits. A greater understanding of the process of positive change following trauma may prove beneficial to clinicians and professionals working with this vulnerable group of young people, helping to maximise their potential for recovery and growth. The study presented here aimed to explore the process of positive change and post-traumatic growth within a sample of eight unaccompanied refugee minors living in the UK. An interpretative phenomenological analytical approach was used as a basis for interviews which explored participants’ subjective experiences of positive change following their survival of multiple traumas. Data analysis revealed four main themes: the impact of trauma, variables influencing the process of positive change, positive outcomes and dissonance. The findings emphasise the importance of helping young people to access a wide range of supportive networks and, at the same time, providing a safe space in which they can talk about the trauma they experienced. Overall, the findings suggest that professionals can play a vital role in helping young people cope effectively with trauma and rebuild their lives.

Author(s): Vicky Sutton, Ian Robbins, Vicky Senior, Sedwick Gordon

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