New tool measures resilience in adolescent Syrian refugees

June 15, 2017, Yale University
A researcher surveys a young Syrian girl using a new tool designed to measure resilience in Arab-speaking youth. Credit: Yale University

Researchers from Yale University, together with partners at universities in Canada, Jordan, and the United Kingdom, have developed a brief and reliable survey tool to measure resilience in children and adolescents who have been displaced by the brutal conflict in Syria.Over 5 million people have been forced to flee the six-year-old conflict in Syria, and over 650,000 Syrians are now rebuilding their lives in neighboring Jordan. Building resilience in people affected by war is a priority for humanitarian workers, but there is no established measure that could help assess the strengths that young people in the Middle East have in adversity. This makes it difficult to assess the nature of resilience and to track changes over time.

The researchers, in partnership with working on the Syrian-Jordanian border, have designed and tested a culturally relevant in English and Arabic languages. They describe their findings in an article published June 15 in Child Development.

"Humanitarian organizations strive to alleviate suffering and also nurture the of refugees—their ability to overcome adversity," said Catherine Panter-Brick, professor of anthropology and global affairs at Yale University and the study's lead author. "If you only focus on the negative—people's trauma—then you're missing the full picture. We have developed a tool for accurately measuring resilience in Arabic-speaking young people.

This survey will help researchers and service providers to craft effective interventions that bolster people's strengths."

The tool is useful for quickly measuring resilience in both and host communities. It identifies strengths at the individual, family, and cultural level, thus including individual, interpersonal, and collective sources of resilience. It asks respondents to rate 12 statements, including "I have opportunities to develop and improve myself for the future," "my family stands by me in difficult times," and "education is important to me," on a five-point scale from "not at all" to "a lot."

In consultation with groups of young Syrian refugees and Jordanian hosts, the research team first examined local understandings of resilience. Then they adapted and translated a tool that has been successfully used in other cultures with vulnerable populations—the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM)—to make it contextually relevant for use in Arabic-speaking refugee communities. To test the tool, the researchers interviewed 603 11- to 18-year-old boys and girls, including refugees and non-refugees, living in five towns near the Syrian-Jordanian border.

As expected, they found that higher levels of resilience were associated with less stress and fewer mental health problems. They also found interesting differences in sources of resilience within the populations surveyed. Boys and girls placed a different emphasis on the importance of family support, participation in religious activities, and education as a gateway to "the future." And while Jordanians identified role models as important to resilience, Syrian refugee youth drew strength from overcoming their traumatic experiences, feeling re-settled, sustaining ambition, and believing that formal education was still important. For all these young people, reliance on family ties was paramount, more so than relationships with peers, the researchers noted.

"This new survey tool measures an important aspect of well-being, one that examines positive strength, rather than vulnerability and difficulties," said co-author and team leader, Rana Dajani, professor at the Hashemite University in Jordan. "It will help humanitarian organizations evaluate their programs for young people and their families."

Explore further: Early marriage and pregnancy risk for adolescent Syrian refugees

Related Stories

Early marriage and pregnancy risk for adolescent Syrian refugees

November 30, 2016
Education and counselling are key to improving the lives of Syrian girls in Jordanian refugee camps, according to a new study. Writing in the journal Pathogens and Global Health, three current and former experts at the United ...

How self-regulation can help young people overcome setbacks

May 29, 2017
Failing an exam at school, getting rejected for a job or being screamed at by your teacher or superior are only a few examples of situations that may cause despair, disappointment or a sense of failure. Unfortunately, such ...

Recommended for you

Researchers identify brain mechanism linking PTSD and opioid addiction

April 23, 2018
Researchers at Western University have shown that the recall of traumatic memories enhances the rewarding effects of morphine, shedding light on the neurobiological link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and opioid ...

Scientific guidelines for using cannabis to treat stress, anxiety and depression

April 19, 2018
In a first-of-a-kind study, Washington State University scientists examined how peoples' self-reported levels of stress, anxiety and depression were affected by smoking different strains and quantities of cannabis at home.

Neuroscientists use magnetic stimulation to amplify PTSD therapy

April 19, 2018
Researchers from The University of Texas at Dallas have found that a standard therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is more effective when paired with transcranial magnetic stimulation of the brain.

Research reveals stronger people have healthier brains

April 19, 2018
A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength, measured by handgrip, is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Study suggests we can recognize speakers only from how faces move when talking

April 18, 2018
Results of a new study by cognitive psychologist and speech scientist Alexandra Jesse and her linguistics undergraduate student Michael Bartoli at the University of Massachusetts Amherst should help to settle a long-standing ...

Scientists disconfirm belief that humans' physiological reaction to emotions are uniform

April 18, 2018
How do you feel when you're angry? Tense? Jittery? Exhausted? Is it the same every time? Is it identical to how your best friend, co-worker, or barista feel when they experience anger? In all likelihood the answer is no, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.