HomeNews & Media CenterNews2017New tool measures resilience in adolescent Syrian refugees

New tool measures resilience in adolescent Syrian refugees

We Love Reading founder Dr. Rana Dajani recently collaborated with researchers from Yale University to develop a brief and reliable survey tool to measure resilience in children and adolescents who have been displaced by the brutal conflict in Syria. The tool was designed to be culturally relevant, and is available in both English and Arabic.

            Resilience is defined as the capacity of individuals to find the psychological, social, cultural, and physical resources to sustain their well-being, and their capacity to then negotiate for these resources to be provided in culturally meaningful ways. In order to test this resiliency, the researchers adapted and translated a currently existing tool, the Child and Youth Resilience Measure (CYRM) to make it contextually relevant to Arabic-speaking refugee communities. To test it, 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.

The tool asks participants to rate 12 statements such as “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. These statements are meant to identify strengths at the individual, family, and cultural level – that is to say, individual, interpersonal, and collective sources of resilience.

“This new survey tool measures an important aspect of wellbeing, one that examines positive strength, rather than vulnerability and difficulties,” said Dr. Dajani. “It will help humanitarian organizations evaluate their programs for young people and their families.”

The survey found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that higher levels of resilience were associated with lower levels of stress and fewer mental health problems. They also found differences between the populations surveyed – for example, boys and girls had differing opinions on the importance of family support, participation in religious activities, and education as a gateway to “the future.” Additionally, Syrian refugee youth were less likely to identify role models as important to resilience, instead drawing strength from overcoming their traumatic experiences, feeling re-settled, and believing that formal education was still important.

We Love Reading has been working inside of Syrian refugee camps since 2014. As of today, our 218 refugee camp reading ambassadors have read to roughly 3,500 refugee children. WLR builds resilience for the children, who draw courage from the heroes they read about; and it establishes agency, purpose, and dignity for the women in the camp, allowing them to take some control over their lives in the camp. It also encourages parents to send their children, especially their daughters, to school. The children in these camps step in as champions for reading, which makes it easier for them to catch up later once formal education systems are re-established.

Dr. Dajani’s article “Resilience in Context: A Brief and Culturally Grounded Measure for Syrian Refugee and Jordanian Host-Community Adolescents” can be found here. More information about We Love Reading’s work in refugee camps can be found here.