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Making a New Home in Germany: How do Newly Arrived Arabic Refugee Youth Acculturate to Life in Germany?

According to recent estimates, more than 21 million people were fleeing from war, conflicts, and prosecution in 2015 – about half of them being children and adolescents. Refugee youth often endure hardship before and during their escape and once they arrive in their host country are faced with the challenges of building a new home. How do refugee youth react to and deal with the process of adapting to a new socio-cultural environment (acculturation)? Acculturation is a multifaceted process and a number of factors have been identified on the individual, social and broader societal level that influence this process. In the past two years, many young people from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan have arrived in Germany. However, due to the recency of these events knowledge of the factors influencing acculturation in newly arrived refugee youth in Germany is virtually absent.

This project aims to study acculturation in newly arrived Arabic speaking refugee youth (the largest population of new arrivals). The project will address questions such as: (1) What are the most pressing challenges faced by newly arrived Arabic refugee youth in Germany?, (2) How does their mental health and well-being affect their adjustment?, (3) What role do family and peer networks play in their adjustment?, (4) How is their social behavior and trust affected by their refugee experience?, (5) What are refugee youths’ hopes and perspectives for the future?

Refugee youth are a vulnerable population. It is thus important to engage them in this research project in a way that reduces potential harm and gives relevance to their lives and experiences. To this end, the project will use a mixed-methods approach combining standardized quantitative measures commonly used in refugee studies with qualitative approaches giving voice to refugee youth’s own perspectives. Moreover, this project will be implemented as a longitudinal project to gain insight into the acculturation process as it unfolds. The project will be carried out primarily by a Syrian doctoral student, who will be provided with the opportunity to pursue her doctoral studies in Germany and who will bring valuable insider knowledge to the project. It is hoped that this research will not only provide insight into how refugee youth make a new home in Germany, but also inform the development of targeted intervention and acculturation programs.

Project members: Lina Alhaddad

Collaborators: Christine Knaevelsrud (FU Berlin), Nadine Stammel (FU Berlin), Robin Goodwin (University of Warwick)

This project is supported by grant from Volkswagen Foundation for refugee researchers.