Using Attachment and Relational Perspectives to Understand Adaptation and Resilience Among Immigrant and Refugee Youth

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Abstract

Migration is a critical issue for child development in the 21st century. We expand on García Coll et al.’s (1996) integrative model of minority child development by drawing from principles of attachment theory and interpersonal relationships research to offer new insights into how youth manage and respond to migration experiences. Immigrant and refugee youth should experience better outcomes to the extent that they (a) maintain strong relationships with caregivers and peers who provide a sense of closeness, safety, and confidence during the process of adjusting to this life transition and (b) find ways to establish a sense of connection and belonging to the new people, places, communities, and social networks within which they now live. Strong bonds to people and connection to places (both familiar and new) can counter the social stratification consequences to minority youth development that are well articulated in García Coll et al.’s integrative model. The need for new and better strategies that promote the positive development of immigrant and refugee youth within their families, schools, workplaces, and communities is crucial, not only for individuals and families but for society as a whole.

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