The developmental context of refugee children – culture, war and Erikson’s stages

The developmental context of refugee children – culture, war and Erikson’s stages

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Work with refugee children shows us that the disruption of family and safety is as powerful a force impacting on child development as is direct violent trauma. In particular, the role of parents (and other attachment figures) as mediators of trauma and powerful emotions, is usually altered – this role is put under increasing strain as there are increasing external demands that prioritise safety and survival.

Parents might become less able to provide cues about how to react, how to contain anxiety and how to survive emotionally. As a result of a distorted context (familial, cultural, environmental and so on), opportunities to meet developmental expectations become limited. Our interest in this area stems from the need to be aware of the implications of this process for those areas of development that are particularly vulnerable. A second task of this paper is to consider some of the implications for counseling – how to tailor interventions to accommodate the age at which the child’s development was most impacted as well as the developmental challenges of their current age.

To these ends, I am using Erik Erikson’s framework of psychosocial development, one that is particularly mindful of the cultural location of the developmental tasks and of the ways in which the organic drive towards development might be distorted by external as well as forces.
Speakers: Deborah Gould
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