Understanding the experiences and emotional needs of unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents in the UK

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2011 Jul;16(3):421-42. doi: 10.1177/1359104510370405. Epub 2011 Feb 11.


For adolescents who flee to the UK seeking asylum, the experience of leaving their home country puts them at risk of developing mental health problems. Although there is a research base exploring the mental health of asylum-seeking children and adolescents who arrive with their families, there is in contrast very little focusing on the mental health needs of children and adolescents who arrive in the UK alone. There has been ongoing debate about whether current theoretical models for understanding reactions to trauma and loss are helpful in supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and adolescents with complex psychological and social issues as a result of fleeing their home countries. This article draws on young people's own understanding of their experiences of seeking asylum in the UK using a qualitative semi-structured interview. It attempts to develop a more contextually relevant understanding of their emotional reactions to adversity and to consider the sorts of support required. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was used to provide an in-depth understanding of six young asylum seekers' experiences, exploring themes of loss, negotiating a new life, psychological distress and the process of adjustment. Psychological interventions and future service provision for this group are discussed.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Social Adjustment
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*
  • United Kingdom