Experiences of Coping in Young Unaccompanied Refugees in the UK
Research with refugees tends to be dominated by mainstream medical and trauma models. However, development of resilience theories and research on coping increasingly find that such constructs can open up currently limited understandings of the refugee experience. This research took a culturally relativist approach to explore experiences of coping in young unaccompanied refugees in the UK. Following extensive consultation, five young refugees were recruited, who were living independently or semi-independently having arrived in the UK without their family, at the age of 15 or 16. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to explore experiences and understanding of ‘coping’, whilst acknowledging the relative contributions of their own and my own cultural frameworks and the limitations of language; three participants made use of having an interpreter present. The accounts are presented idiographically, under three major themes that were apparent on multiple levels of the refugees’ lives, from the individual to the cultural: ‘Adaptation in the context of hardship and loss’, ‘Beliefs and worldview in shaping a new life’, and ‘Building strength and self-reliance’. These findings contribute to research finding resilience in refugee lives, whilst not to the detriment of incredible loss and pain. The research attests to the significance of cultural frameworks in refugee coping, with religion playing a key role. The themes are discussed in relation to existing literature and relevant texts, with implications for further research and clinical practice. The role of professionals as allies of refugees is suggested, in promoting socially inclusive practices that involves work both in the clinic and on community and social levels.