Finding keys: A systematic review of barriers and facilitators for refugee children's disclosure of their life stories

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The systematic review presented in this article aims to reveal what supports and hampers refugee children in telling their, often traumatic, life stories. This is important to ensure that migration decisions are based on reliable information about the children’s needs for protection. A systematic review was conducted in academic journals, collecting all available scientific knowledge about the disclosure of life stories by refugee minors in the context of social work, guardianship, foster care, asylum procedures, mental health assessment, and therapeutic settings. The resulting 39 studies were thoroughly reviewed with reference to what factors aided or hampered the refugee children’s disclosure of their life stories. The main barriers to disclosure were feelings of mistrust and self-protection from the side of the child and disrespect from the side of the host community. The facilitators for disclosing life stories were a positive and respectful attitude of the interviewer, taking time to build trust, using nonverbal methods, providing agency to the children, and involving trained interpreters. Social workers, mentors, and guardians should have time to build trust and to help a young refugee in revealing the life story before the minor is heard by the migration authorities. The lack of knowledge on how refugee children can be helped to disclose their experiences is a great concern because the decision in the migration procedure is based on the story the child is able to disclose.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)242-260
Number of pages19
JournalTrauma, Violence, & Abuse
Issue number2
Early online date20-Feb-2018
Publication statusPublished - 1-Apr-2020


  • community violence
  • cultural contexts
  • memory and trauma
  • mental health and violence
  • war

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