X Close

Global Youth

Home

An interdisciplinary research centre that examines what it means to grow up in a global world

Menu

Youth related research events and activities at UCL this November

By UCL Global Youth , on 5 November 2018

CfP: Researching with/ for/ about youth and young people, 11th February 2019, 13.00 – 17.00pm, UCL-Institute of Education

Following the success of our methods workshop last year, the CGY is organising a second workshop to explore the challenges of researching with/ for/ about youth and young people. These challenges may include accessing young people and young lives, tackling ethical issues, or self-care for the researcher when researching youth who have experienced trauma. The innovations may include new(ish) methods (e.g. using social media for data collection) or ‘old’ methods that have been updated to reflect the challenges of your particular project.

This will be an open, informal, and multi-disciplinary forum. If you would like to present your research methods at this event, please send an expression of interest to Avril Keating (a.keating@ucl.ac.uk) by 5th December 2018. This expression of interest should include: your name, institutional affiliation, the proposed title of your presentation, and a short abstract (200 words).

We especially welcome abstracts from researchers using innovative methods and/ or Early Career Researchers (including PhD students). Researchers working in a non-academic setting are also very welcome to submit an abstract and/ or attend.

New project: Exploring the dynamics of globalisation for young people in coastal communities

The aim of this project is to identify research methods and cross-disciplinary intersections that will give us greater insight into how the dynamics of globalisation are shaping youth aspirations and attitudes towards mobility and migration. In 2019, we plan to organise two inter-disciplinary workshops for UCL researchers; exchange knowledge on emerging theories and methods of researching these themes; and conduct a pilot of some of these methods.

This project is funded by UCL Grand Challenges, and led by Avril Keating (CGY), Johanna Waters (Geography) and Claire Cameron and Abigail Knight (TCRU). To find out more, click here.

8 November: Realising aspirations? Gender, ethnicity and job inequalities  As part of this year’s ESRC Festival of Social Science, the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) will explore recent research on the impact of gender on the occupational aspirations of young people of different ethnic groups. Find more details here:

 15-16 November: LLAKES Centre Conference on Young Adults, Inequality and the Generational Divide: Learning and Life Chances in an Era of Uncertainty

This 2-day conference explores the changing opportunities structures for young adults in the context of growing inequality and economic uncertainty. For more details, click here.

If you would like us to add your event to this list, email us at globalyouth@ucl.ac.uk

Researching with/ for/ about youth and young people: CGY workshop on 11th February 2019

By UCL Global Youth , on 5 November 2018

** Call for Papers/ Presentations **

UCL-Institute of Education, 11th February 2019,  13.00 – 17.00pm

Following the success of our methods workshop last year, the CGY is organising a second workshop to explore the challenges of researching with/ for/ about youth and young people.

These challenges may include accessing young people and young lives, tackling ethical issues, or self-care for the researcher when researching youth who have experienced trauma. The innovations may include new(ish) methods (e.g. using social media for data collection) or ‘old’ methods that have been updated to reflect the challenges of your particular project.

This will be an open, informal, and multi-disciplinary forum. If you would like to present your research methods at this event, please send an expression of interest to Avril Keating (a.keating@uc.ac.ukby 5th December 2018. This expression of interest should include: your name, institutional affiliation, the proposed title of your presentation, and a short abstract (200 words).

We especially welcome abstracts from researchers using innovative methods and/ or Early Career Researchers (including PhD students). Researchers working in a non-academic setting are also very welcome to submit an abstract and/ or attend.

Youth attitudes towards mobility and migration: Exploring the dynamics of globalisation in coastal communities

By UCL Global Youth , on 5 November 2018

This project is funded by UCL Grand Challenges’ GCCU strand, and led by Avril Keating (CGY), Johanna Waters (Geography) and Claire Cameron and Abigail Knight (TCRU).

The aim of this project is to identify research methods and cross-disciplinary intersections that will give us greater insight into how the dynamics of globalisation are shaping youth aspirations and attitudes in coastal communities in England. Coastal towns are of particular interest because the dynamics of globalisation mean they are experiencing greater inward flows (tourists, ex-Londoners seeking cheaper housing, EU migrants) and outward flows (young people leaving to access further study/ work). At the same time, many of these towns are struggling to attract the kind of resources (e.g. good teachers, new jobs, transport investment etc.) that enable young people and coastal communities to flourish.

We will focus in particular on the impact of these dynamics on young people’s attitudes towards, and aspirations for, mobility and migration. It is often assumed that young people are highly mobile. This is a life stage in which young people become more independent and, it is assumed, start to explore new aspects of their communities and countries without assistance from adults. However, contemporary youth are doing this at a time when their communities are changing rapidly, through a combination of: cuts to youth services and transport links; inward migration of immigrants; and the closure of high street shops (which removes both job and leisure opportunities and spaces for young people).

Through our previous research, we believe that there are many unexplored tensions, contradictions, and inequalities in young people’s access to, and attitudes towards, mobility and migration. In this project, therefore, we will examine how new cross-disciplinary connections and new research methods might shed more light on these tensions.

Project Objectives

Our goals are to:
1. Bring together researchers from across UCL to exchange knowledge about the different definitions and theories of belonging, community, mobility, and migration that are being used in different disciplines (sociology, politics, psychology, geography and the Built environment);
2. Explore the relative merits of different data collection methods for tapping into youth experiences of and attitudes towards belonging, community, mobility and migration (e.g. walking interviews; local community ethnographies; arts and visual-based interventions; Big data and social media data);
3. Develop research instruments that enable us to test out how some of the suggested research methods could be used to address our research problem.
4. Consider the ethics of these different methods, particularly given the strictures of the new GDPR regulations; and
5. Lay the foundations for an interdisciplinary and mixed-method funding bid that allows us to extend this work and our understanding of young lives in coastal communities.

Action Plan and Timetable
To achieve these goals, we plan to:
1. February 2019: Conduct a preliminary literature review to identify the range of recent research on the impact of globalisation on coastal communities and key gaps in the field.
2. March 2019: Organise an inter-disciplinary Knowledge Exchange Workshop that brings together researchers from across UCL to share theories, methods, and research design ideas.
3. May 2019: Pilot 3 different methods of data collection in one coastal town, with young people aged 16-18.
4. June 2019: Organise an inter-disciplinary Dissemination and Reflection Workshop to report the results of the pilot and refine our methods.
5. July 2019: Produce a short project report and blog posts

Decolonising the curriculum – What can we learn from Global South theories and experiences?

By UCL Global Youth , on 2 November 2018

Recent student protests in South Africa and around the world have centred attention on what has been termed ‘epistemic justice’ – the need to ensure that knowledge is released from the rhetoric of modernity, the logic of coloniality and the illusion of globality. These events prompted Dr. Sharlene Swartz to consider key foundational questions in her own work, such as what does it mean to decolonise the curriculum? And what will it take to do so?

In her CGY research seminar on 31st October 2018, Dr. Swartz crafted a careful answer to these questions and presented Eleven Theses on Decolonising the Curriculum. In an attempt to show how these theses might be put into practice, and the difficulties that can be encountered, Dr. Swartz also described a current project in the field of youth studies: The Oxford Handbook of Global South Youth Studies. The Handbook, currently in preparation, offers an instructive case regarding how theory develops, travels, unravels and regenerates. Whilst showcasing new theoretical ways of understanding Southern youth’s life-worlds with its starkly differing material realities, she illustrated how this project offers ways to avoid essentialising and homogenising Southern experiences and to ensure a renewed global youth studies from which everyone benefits.

The slides from Dr. Swartz’s seminar are now available for download here.

Dr. Sharlene Swartz is Executive Director of the Transformative Education research programme at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa, an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Fort Hare and an adjunct Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. She holds undergraduate degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Zululand in South Africa; a Master’s degree from Harvard University and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Her expertise and current research centres on the just inclusion of youth in a transforming society that includes interpersonal and communal notions of restitution. Her work is characterised by a focus on Southern theory, emancipatory methodologies and critical race theory. Before embarking on graduate studies, Sharlene spent 12 years at a youth NGO where she pioneered peer-led social justice programmes for school-going youth. She has published widely in academic journals and has authored or edited multiple books including Ikasi: the moral ecology of South Africa’s township youth (2009); Teenage Tata: Voices of Young Fathers in South Africa (2009); Youth citizenship and the politics of belonging (2013); Another Country: Everyday Social Restitution (2016), Moral eyes: Youth and justice in Cameroon, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa (2018) and Studying while black: Race, education and emancipation in South African universities (2018). She is the President of the International Sociological Association’s Sociology of Youth research committee and is the chair of the board of the Restitution Foundation, an NGO in South Africa.

This seminar was facilitated by a grant from the UCL Global Engagement Fund.

Youth research events and activities at UCL this October

By UCL Global Youth , on 28 September 2018

There are lots of youth-related research events and activities taking place across UCL this October.

9th October – Cross-border childhoods: schooling between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Room 113, 26 Bedford Way, 1-2pm
Seminar by Johanna Waters (Dept of Geography) as part of the Human Geography Seminar Series.

11th October – Adolescent Lives: Challenges & Opportunities  

A one-day workshop highlighting the emerging, innovative cross-disciplinary research being conducted as part of UCL’s “Adolescent Lives” initiative. Organised by UCL Grand Challenges. (Free) tickets available here:

17th October – Young people’s digital practices: the question of generativity. UCL Knowledge Lab, 3.30 – 4.30pm
Rebecca Eynon (University of Oxford) will be speaking at UCL Knowledge Lab about youth engagement with digital technologies. Click here for more details.

30st October – Agency and impasses to success amongst higher education students in South Africa. Room 739, 10am – 11.30am
In this lecture, Dr. Swartz will talk about the experience of young Black students in South African universities and highlight some of the particular obstacles that these students face. She will draw on the five-year longitudinal study that culminated in the book Studying while black (Swartz et al, 2018), and show an excerpt from the documentary Ready or Not! Black student experiences of universities in South Africa. Dr Swartz will also discuss the methodological and theoretical frameworks she used for understanding student experiences in the context of inequality, and the challenges of formulating recommendations through such a theoretical framework.
This lecture is part of 3rd year undergraduate module Youth in a Globalising World Module but this session is open to all students.

31st October – Decolonising the curriculum: What can we learn from Global South theories and experiences? Centre for Global Youth seminar, Elvin Hall, 12.30-2pm
In this seminar, Dr. Sharlene Swartz will argue that decolonising the curriculum centres on three key questions: What is taught? How it is taught? And who teaches it? To illustrate what kind of interventions are needed, Dr Swartz will describe a new project in the field of youth studies that illustrates how theory develops, travels, unravels and regenerates. In this way, Dr Swartz will showcase new theoretical ways of understanding Southern youth’s life-worlds (with its starkly differing material realities) and offers ways to avoid essentialising and homogenising Southern experiences.
Dr. Swartz is Executive Director of the Transformative Education research programme at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa, and the author of multiple books, including ‘Studying while black: Race, education and emancipation in South African universities’ (2018).
*** This event is free, but booking is essential. To book you ticket, click here.
Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Youth agency and youth study theories: Perspectives from the Global South

By UCL Global Youth , on 28 September 2018

In late October, the Centre for Global Youth is hosting Dr Sharlene Swartz, the Executive Director of the Transformative Education research programme at the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa. As part of this visit, Dr Swartz will be giving two talks, which are open to all.

Tuesday 30st October 2018 (10am – 11.30am, Room 739): Agency and impasses to success amongst higher education students in South Africa

In this lecture, Dr. Swartz will talk about the experience of young Black students in South African universities and highlight some of the particular obstacles that these students face. She will draw on the five-year longitudinal study that culminated in the book Studying while black (Swartz et al, 2018), and show an excerpt from the documentary Ready or Not! Black student experiences of universities in South Africa (https://youtu.be/hFcouu8ICfk). Dr Swartz will also discuss the methodological and theoretical frameworks she used for understanding student experiences in the context of inequality, and the challenges of formulating recommendations through such a theoretical framework.

This lecture is part of the 3rd year undergraduate Youth in a Globalising World Module but it is open to all, particularly students.

Wednesday 31st October 2018: Decolonising the curriculum – What can we learn from Global South theories and experiences? (Elvin Hall, 12.30-2pm)
*** This event is free, but booking is essential. To book you ticket, click here.
Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Recent student protests in South Africa and around the world have centred attention on what has been termed ‘epistemic justice’ – the need to ensure that knowledge is released from the rhetoric of modernity, the logic of coloniality and the illusion of globality. Steering a careful pathway through a minefield of undefined and loosely employed terminology (inter alia indigenous, empire, Global South) this seminar will attempt to craft a careful answer to the questions: what does it mean to decolonise the curriculum and what will it take to do so? With regards to meaning, decolonising centres on three central questions: what is taught, how it is taught and who teaches it. In an attempt to show what kinds of interventions are needed, and the difficulties encountered, Swartz will describe a project in the field of youth studies (The Oxford Handbook of Global South Youth Studies). The Handbook, currently in preparation, offers an instructive case regarding how theory develops, travels, unravels and regenerates. Whilst showcasing new theoretical ways of understanding Southern youth’s life-worlds with its starkly differing material realities, it offers ways to avoid essentialising and homogenising Southern experiences and to ensure a renewed global youth studies from which everyone benefits.

Dr. Sharlene Swartz is Executive Director of the Transformative Education research programme at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa, an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Fort Hare and an adjunct Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Cape Town. She holds undergraduate degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Zululand in South Africa; a Master’s degree from Harvard University and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. Her expertise and current research centres on the just inclusion of youth in a transforming society that includes interpersonal and communal notions of restitution. Her work is characterised by a focus on Southern theory, emancipatory methodologies and critical race theory. Before embarking on graduate studies, Sharlene spent 12 years at a youth NGO where she pioneered peer-led social justice programmes for school-going youth. She has published widely in academic journals and has authored or edited multiple books including Ikasi: the moral ecology of South Africa’s township youth (2009); Teenage Tata: Voices of Young Fathers in South Africa (2009); Youth citizenship and the politics of belonging (2013); Another Country: Everyday Social Restitution (2016), Moral eyes: Youth and justice in Cameroon, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Africa (2018) and Studying while black: Race, education and emancipation in South African universities (2018). She is the President of the International Sociological Association’s Sociology of Youth research committee, is a nationally rated researcher in South Africa and is the chair of the board of the Restitution Foundation, an NGO in South Africa.

This visit was facilitated by a grant from the UCL Global Engagement Fund.

Young people and Fundamental British Values: why is support lower among young people with vocational qualifications?

By UCL Global Youth , on 4 June 2018

A guest post by Jan Germen Janmaat, Reader in Comparative Social Science at the LLAKES Research Centre, UCL-Institute of Education

In November 2014 the Coalition Government called on schools to actively promote ‘fundamental British values’ (FBVs), which it considered to be democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and tolerance. This initiative was part of the more encompassing Prevent Strategy, the aim of which is to thwart the radicalization of young people. The government also proposed a number of actions schools can take to promote FBVs, such as offering citizenship education, encouraging open debates on social and political issues, and organising democratic practices in school. It restricted its advice to primary and lower secondary education, however. Sixth form and further education colleges were given little guidance on how to promote FBVs.

The policy immediately attracted a lot of criticism from scholars and teachers. The label of ‘fundamentally British’ was seen as inappropriate as the values referred to are universal human values theoretically endorsed by many countries. Others criticized the connection with the Prevent strategy, which, in their view, meant that the government was covertly targeting ethnic minorities, and Muslim youth in particular, with the policy. However, neither the government nor academia bothered to check how strong the support for the four values labelled as ‘fundamentally British’ actually is among young people and whether education, in one way or another, can inculcate FVBs. I addressed these gaps by analysing data of the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study (CELS).

My study has a number of surprises in store for the government. First, I found that support for FBVs among 23 year olds is already very high: on a scale from 1 (minimal support) to 5 (maximum support), the mean score is 4 and 97.5% of the respondents score higher than the neutral midpoint of 3. This casts doubt on the necessity of promoting FBVs still further. Second, minority groups, including Muslim minorities, do not show lower levels of support for FBVs than the white majority. In view of the universal character of the values labelled as FBVs (as already noted), this is actually not surprising. Indeed, one study found that teachers of Muslim heritage considered these values to be compatible with, rather than antithetical to, Islam. Third, and most importantly, the school activities suggested by the government, such as citizenship education and democratic practices, are not related to support for FBVs. In contrast, post-16 educational track does show a strong effect: those with vocational qualifications such as an NVQ or Btech have significantly lower levels of support for FBVs than those with academic qualifications such as A levels or a degree. This effect holds when all relevant controls are added to the analysis, indicating it is genuine and not a reflection of young people with lagging support for FBVs from the onset enrolling in vocational tracks (the latter would represent a so-called selection effect). Thus education does influence the adoption of FBVs but not in ways expected by the government.

Does this result mean that the activities suggested by the government are altogether ineffective strategies to promote FBVs? No, that would be a premature conclusion. But it does suggest that the government has targeted the wrong age group with these activities. We know from the political science literature that young people only become interested in social and political affairs in late adolescence and early adulthood. It would thus make more sense to concentrate any socialization efforts on this life stage, i.e. the period in life that young people are much more receptive to input influencing their civic and political engagement.

In fact, the finding on educational track supports the idea that the curriculum, open discussions of topical issues and democratic practices do matter. Particularly in England, curriculum differences between the post-16 tracks are huge, with vocational tracks not offering any courses that are likely to be conducive for political engagement, such as citizenship education, general studies or history. Other research found that the emphasis in vocational tracks is more on fostering practical skills and social manners than on independent analysis and critical thinking. Teachers in such tracks are less likely to encourage open discussions of political issues and to give students a say in teaching and learning as they fear a disruption of order within the class. Given these very different educational experiences, it is not surprising that students in the vocational tracks are not as supportive of FBVs.

In sum, my findings do not give the government much reason to be concerned about young people’s overall support for basic democratic values. Mean levels of support hide inequalities, however, and these happen to be pronounced across educational tracks. If the government wishes to mitigate such inequalities, it should seriously consider instituting a compulsory and uniform course of citizenship education across tracks in upper secondary. This course should be similar in both content and delivery.

This blog is based on an article published in the British Educational Research Journal (Vol. 44, No. 2): Educational influences on young people’s support for fundamental British values.

 

 

Listening to youth: A selection of recent podcasts about young lives

By UCL Global Youth , on 11 April 2018

A guest post by Hanaa Almoaibed, PhD Student at UCL-Institute of Education

Podcasts have become an increasingly popular and innovative way to discuss contemporary issues, and in this blog post I want to highlight the range of episodes and series that focus on youth and young people. While this list is far from comprehensive, the podcasts mentioned below allow us to reflect on some of the difficult issues young people are faced with today as they navigate their transitions into adulthood. To listen to a podcast on the issues that are discussed below, simply click on the highlighted text in the relevant section.
Podcasts capturing everyday and extraordinary experiences
Many of the podcasts that are currently available are first person accounts of the daily lives, struggles, and joys of young people. Two good examples of this are Majd’s account of her experience as a young woman transitioning into adulthood in Saudi Arabia, and Melissa’s story of being a teen mother. Similarly, the Campus series is a collection that sheds light on the ‘life-defining’ experiences of young people (although it tends to focus on students).
Other series are more detailed and topic specific. For example, the Youth Element series focuses on the issues faced by youth in East Asia, while Multicultural Youth Radio presents the voices of Sudanese migrant youth in Canberra as they reflect on their daily experiences as migrants.
Education and Employment
We know that transitions related to education can be particularly challenging for young people, and there are a range of podcasts that discuss the associated challenges such as: the choice of specialisations; type(s) of degree and associated fees; and entrepreneurship, skills and how to bridge education and employment (including these podcasts by McKinsey). Another frequent theme in these discussions is that these transitions are not straightforward, and that the challenges that youth face can be more pronounced depending on variables such as gender, race and class.
Education, Development and the Global South
Education is often seen as a key development goal for youth in the Global South, as large youth populations are often seen as both a threat and an opportunity. As a development issue, education is not only seen in light of access as a matter of social justice (often needed in response to sometimes outdated embedded assumptions about race and gender) but is also debated as a solution to high unemployment rates, linking the issues of education and employment very closely. Issues of skills and technical training for youth employment are often the centre of conversations such as in the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs’ episode related to political stability through employment opportunities for youth in the Middle East. Similarly, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies’ podcast episode on ‘The Promise of Youth in Africa’ hosts several experts who discuss creating more opportunities for skills and fostering entrepreneurship and technical training in Africa, as does this International Monetary Fund discussion.
Gender identity
Issues of gender identity are explored in a multitude of ways, and we can listen to discussions about these experiences in Gender Identity and Youth Culture and How Millennials think of Gender. The United Nations Gender Focus also has several episodes related to gender issues in general, and youth and gender in specific. Many of these episodes explore issues of sexuality and stigma (see here also on youth and homosexuality in Russia) and how this affects young men and women in their ability to find meaningful life arrangements and work, exploring the issue from the perspective of violence, public policy, human rights, religion and cultural relevance.
Health and wellbeing
While navigating through the challenges and opportunities of early adulthood, many young people struggle to reconcile a myriad of health issues that may complicate transitions. Mental and physical well-being are pertinent to the transition experiences of young people around the world, and the risks they face such as violence and substance abuse. In light of this, the first Season of the In Sickness and in Health series is dedicated to youth, social justice and mental health, and discusses several youth well-being topics such as mental health, depression, LGBTQ youth, media and technology.
Technology
The Healthy Mind Matters podcast devotes an episode to looking at the question of whether technology and social media can exacerbate mental health (and sometimes even increase suicidal thoughts) among young people. This podcast episode on Youth and Gang Violence on Social Media focuses on a more specific sub-group of youth, but provides more universally-applicable insights into the intersection of online and offline meanings of belonging and self-worth. The episode looks at ways qualitative research methods and mechanisms can be used to unravel socially-constructed dimensions of identity related to class, race, and political status, and their impact on experiences of trauma, violence and well-being. This opens up a necessary conversation about how to work with young people to develop more effective research to understand the meanings of being young, and developing policy capable of mitigating risks and obstacles to youth well-being and development.
Security and political engagement
Young people often negotiate risk and marginalisation through political engagement and participation. For many, this is a matter of security, for others, it is a way of achieving improved access to their rights and opportunities. Youth can engage in political activism through innovative ways both online and offline (such as these youth in Denmark or the youth in the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, and the women who pushed for the right to drive in Saudi Arabia).
For young people in areas of conflict or political instability, many of the issues discussed above are aggravated by fears of safety, security and future stability. For some, this can be due to being part of a minority under threat (such as the so called “Dreamers” in the USA), and for others it can be the daily realities of living in a country destabilised by conflict, such as for many young people in Israel, Palestine and Lebanon. In addition to their fears, many of the young people are bored and discontent, which in turn ends up being a concern for global security.
And while some young people do turn to violence, others find the pressures of modernity and transitions so overwhelming that they close up and isolate themselves, such as the Hikikomori in Japan.

Adolescent Wellbeing conference, 12th December 2017

By UCL Global Youth , on 20 November 2017

A cross-disciplinary conference co-organised by the Centre for Global Youth and the Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health, University College London.

This one-day conference will take place on 12th December 2017, at the UCL-Institute of Education. The main aim of the event is to bring together researchers from neuro-science, health sciences, and social sciences to examine a common challenge (how do we ensure the wellbeing of adolescents in diverse contexts?) from different disciplinary perspectives.

To facilitate a cross-disciplinary conversation, we are adopting a broad definition of wellbeing, so that it includes not just physical health or mental health, but also social, political and/or economic wellbeing (and the challenges youth face in attaining these types of wellbeing). Many of these different facets of young lives are interlinked, but their connections are not necessarily fully understood.

Outline of the Programme

The final programme is available for download here and you can view the abstracts for all papers here.

Registration: This event is sold out, and ticket booking has now closed. If you have already booked a ticket for this event, the Registration Desk will be located on Level 3 of the Institute of Education (The closest entrance is on Bedford Way).

Finding the IOE: Please consult the Eventbrite page, which includes a helpful map and journey planner.

To find out more about CGY events, contact Dr Avril Keating (a.keating@ucl.ac.uk), subscribe to the CGY mailing list, or follow us on Twitter, @uclglobalyouth.

This event is sponsored by UCL Grand Challenges Programme (Human Wellbeing strand), the Department of Education, Practice and Society and Great Ormond Street Institute for Child Health.

ICH logo

UCL-GCHW_Title

Mental health and wellbeing after humanitarian emergencies: what do we know about support programmes for children and young people in low- and middle-income countries?

By UCL Global Youth , on 6 November 2017

To celebrate Humanitarian Evidence Week (6-12th November), we have a guest blog post by Kelly Dickson and Mukdarut Bangpan, EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education

Figure 1_v2The United Nations Children’s Fund estimate that a quarter of the world’s children are living in countries affected by conflict or natural disasters. We know that these events can have a long-term impact on children’s and young people’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing, and while many programmes have been designed to support children and young people dealing with the consequences, our knowledge of what works and why is still developing. To address this gap, Oxfam and the Feinstein International Center humanitarian evidence programme, commissioned us, as part of a wider review, to draw together a synthesis of outcome evaluations from across the world to gain a view of research effort in this area. Our review sought to capture the full range of approaches taken to provide mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for children and young people (CYP) in countries affected by conflict or natural disasters, and the outcomes they seek to improve.

What did we find?
We found that evaluations of MHPSS programmes for children and young people are still relatively new with few conducted before 2004, and most appearing in the last five years. A rich diversity of approaches are currently being tested for their efficacy, measuring a wide range of outcomes. For example, programmes might incorporate trauma-focused approaches e.g. using psychological techniques tailored to meet the needs of CYP experiencing emotional and psychological difficulties or take a strength-based approach, focusing on CYP’s individual resilience and family and social networks to develop positive coping strategies.

Common psychotherapeutic modalities such as cognitive behaviour therapy or narrative exposure therapy were most likely to address and measure mental health outcomes such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, functioning or anxiety. They also measured psychosocial outcomes such as pro-social behaviours (e.g. actions which benefit someone other than yourself) and, less frequently, hope and resilience. Psychosocial programmes were similarly ambitious in their aims, measuring a range of both mental health and psychosocial outcomes.

Figure 1 Types of programmes and outcomes measured

figure 2_v2

Of the 45 MHPSS programmes identified in our review, many took advantage of whole-school or classroom-based settings to deliver programmes to children and young people in groups rather than 1:1 settings. Although not possible to outline each programme in detail, two case examples, indicative of the need for support, programme components and outcomes measured in the field, are provided below:

MHPSS after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province, China
A large number of young people were exposed to the harrowing events of the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan province, China. Many of those who survived showed signs of being extremely fearful and anxious and went on to develop psychological problems, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. In 2010, a short-term (six sessions) group cognitive behaviour programme was designed to support adolescents, who had lost one or both parents, manage trauma-based fears and negative thought patterns. The programme aimed to teach young people relaxation techniques and imagination skills, such as finding a ‘safe place’ in their mind. They were also supported to cope with intrusive flashbacks through guided meditation and nightmares through dream intervention exercises.

The programme needed to be adapted from the original manual (‘Children and Disaster: Teaching Recovery Techniques’, initially developed by the Norway, Foundation for Children and War) to ensure it was suitable to a Chinese context. Firstly, by removing exploration of avoidance behaviours, as they are often viewed as important adaptive strategies, to help people cope with change. Secondly by including the use of culturally specific examples of how to view events, ideas and emotions in a more positive way (cognitive re-framing). The aim of the programme was not only to ameliorate symptoms of PTSD and depression, but also to provide young people with the psychological resilience to recover and thrive as they made the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

MHPSS in conflict-affected contexts
War affected communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo continue to live under constant threat of attack and/or abduction by militia operating in the region. Growing up in armed conflict settings can destabilise familial relations and lead to emotional and behavioural difficulties in children and young people. To improve CYP’s mental health and psychosocial outcomes, (such as PTSD, conduct problems, prosocial behaviours) a family focused, community-based psychosocial intervention was designed for children aged 7–18. Programme activities included: psychoeducation about the impact of war, a life skills leadership course, relaxation techniques and mental imagery exercises, effective communication and conflict resolution skills and short video clips to address discrimination and stigma towards former child soldiers who had returned to the community.

Programmes activities were adapted to be culturally familiar to the local population by using culturally familiar songs, games and rituals, and drawing on local cultural and spiritual beliefs about how to address MHPSS well-being. The programme was also highly relational, focusing on building positive and trusting relationships with young people and enhancing community ties. Programme providers sought to encourage positive family interactions and community acceptance through these approaches to help mediate and improve the mental health and psychosocial of war affected youth.

Theory as a missing link
However, despite these efforts to build an empirical evidence base, studies commonly lack an explicit description of the programme theory underpinning their design. Further theorisation on the links between programme aims and focus, choice of programme components, delivery and anticipated mechanisms for improving outcomes for CYP could provide a more nuanced understanding of how and why MHPSS may or may not work. This programme theorization could also benefit from an understanding of how characteristics of young people, such as age, gender or other individual or social characteristics also interact with and mediate the impact of programmes in natural disaster and war affected settings.

HEW Logo V2How did we get these findings?

We conducted a comprehensive search of 12 bibliographic databases and 25 websites. We included studies published in English from 1980 onwards, if they delivered MHPSS programmes to one group of children in LMIC and compared their findings against another group of children who did not participate in a programme. To find out more about the systematic review and evidence on the effectiveness of programmes, please see the evidence summary of the full report here.

Acknowledgements

The research was funded by The Humanitarian Evidence and Communications Programme (HEP), a partnership between Oxfam and the Feinstein International Center, Tufts University on behalf of the Department for International Development. To find out more about the systematic review and evidence on the effectiveness of programmes, please see the evidence summary of the full report.