Parenting in humanitarian and conflict situations

According to the UN Refugee Agency's annual Global Trends Report: World at War, the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide reached an all-time high since World War Two of 59.5 million people. This is a dramatic rise of 8 million from the previous year - the biggest leap ever seen in a single year. Since early 2011, the main reason for the acceleration has been the war in Syria, now the world's single-largest driver of displacement. Over one million Syrian children have been forcibly displaced from their homes to neighbouring countries for safety and three million remain displaced inside the country. Exposure to extreme violence and loss, followed by the disruption of leaving home with few or no possessions and adapting to the new and often poor living conditions in refugee camps or other displacement locations has left children extremely vulnerable to mental health problems.

Parental support and family cohesion have been identified in previous research as protective against mental health problems in children in situations of armed conflict. We have conducted a series of studies to 1) investigate the feasibility of conducting research in this context, 2) obtain an indication of levels of mental health problems among Syrian refugee children, 3) gain understanding of the challenges parents and caregivers face and 4) test the feasibility of distributing parenting information to and collecting data from refugee families. Having established feasiblity, we are now working towards conducting further studies to investigate whether we can deliver and evaluate parenting intervention in this context.