Attachment insecurity in unaccompanied refugees : a longitudinal study

This study aims to focus on the avoidance and anxiety attachment patterns among unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs) after resettlement in Norway. The authors explored the extent of stability and change in these attachment patterns and the role of demographic and interpersonal predictors of change in levels of attachment insecurity.


Three waves of data were analyzed with latent growth curve modeling. The sample consisted of 918 refugees who had arrived in Norway as unaccompanied minor asylum seekers and were granted residence. Of the initial sample, 82% were male and the mean age was 18.6 years (SD = 2.61).


Results revealed substantial stability in attachment patterns: anxiety patterns did not change over time, while avoidance patterns increased, but only marginally.


Research limitations/implications
A large sample of URMs revealed rather stabile attachment patterns over time, underlining the need for social support that fosters their adjustment processes best. More research is needed to clarify the mechanism underlying the stability and change in attachment patterns and to understand better how these young people can be supported emotionally during their resettlement process in the absence of parental care.


Social implications
Host societies could perhaps invest more in promoting successful and sustainable adult relationships for unaccompanied refugees approaching the age of 18 years. This may help them to cope better with acculturation stressors and negative past experiences and may thereby improve their future mental health and social relationships.


Targeting competencies to develop and maintain close relationships may be particularly important for URM’s, because this may alleviate risks for mental health related to past and current stressors as well as loneliness. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the present study is the first to investigate stability and change in attachment insecurity among unaccompanied refugees.

Marieke Sleijpen ; Serap Keles ; Trudy T M Mooren ; Brit Oppedal | 2022
In: International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care ; ISSN: 1747-9894 | 18 | 1 | 66-82
Anxiety Disorders, Asylum Seekers, Attachment Behavior, Children, Etiology, Longitudinal Study, Mental health, Refugees, Research, Unaccompanied Minors