Psychosocial Concepts in Humanitarian Work with Children
A Review of the Concepts and Related Literature
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by a grant to the National Academy of Sciences and the Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2003). Psychosocial Concepts in Humanitarian Work with Children: A Review of the Concepts and Related Literature. Maryanne Loughry and Carola Eyber. Roundtable on the Demography of Forced Migration, Committee on Population, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education and Program on Forced Migration and Health at the Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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ROUNDTABLE ON THE DEMOGRAPHY OF FORCED MIGRATION 2003
CHARLES B. KEELY (Chair),
Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta
Center for Development and Environment, University of Sussex
Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford
Bureau of Humanitarian Response, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, DC
Emergency and Humanitarian Action Department, World Health Organization, Geneva
Feinstein International Famine Center, Tufts University
Program Coordination Section, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva
School of Public Health, Harvard University
Epi Centre, Médecins Sans Frontières, Paris
Mercy Corps, Washington, DC
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York
SUSAN F. MARTIN,
Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University
W. COURTLAND ROBINSON,
Center for Refugee and Disaster Studies, Johns Hopkins University
SHARON STANTON RUSSELL,
Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Fordham University
International Emergency and Refugee Health Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales
HOLLY REED, Program Officer
COMMITTEE ON POPULATION 2003
KENNETH W. WACHTER (Chair),
Department of Demography, University of California, Berkeley
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
Department of Economics, University of California, Los Angeles
JOHN N. HOBCRAFT,
Population Investigation Committee, London School of Economics
CHARLES B. KEELY,
Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
DAVID I. KERTZER,
Department of Anthropology, Brown University
DAVID A. LAM,
Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
The Population Council, New York
DOUGLAS S. MASSEY,
Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
RUBÉN G. RUMBAUT,
Center for Research on Immigration, Population and Public Policy, Department of Sociology, University of California, Irvine
JAMES W. VAUPEL,
Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany
LINDA J. WAITE,
Population Research Center, University of Chicago
ROBERT J. WILLIS,
Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
BARNEY COHEN, Director
In response to the need for more research on displaced persons, the Committee on Population developed the Roundtable on the Demography of Forced Migration in 1999. This activity, which is supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provides a forum in which a diverse group of experts can discuss the state of knowledge about demographic structures and processes among people who are displaced by war and political violence, famine, natural disasters, or government projects or programs that destroy their homes and communities. The roundtable includes representatives from operational agencies, with long-standing field and administrative experience. It includes researchers and scientists with both applied and scholarly expertise in medicine, demography, and epidemiology. The group also includes representatives from government, international organizations, donors, universities, and nongovernmental organizations.
The roundtable is organized to be as inclusive as possible of relevant expertise and to provide occasions for substantive sharing to increase knowledge for all participants, with a view toward developing cumulative facts to inform policy and programs in complex humanitarian emergencies. To this aim, the roundtable has held annual workshops on a variety of topics, including mortality patterns in complex emergencies, demographic assessment techniques in emergency settings, and research ethics among conflict-affected and displaced populations.
Another role for the roundtable is to serve as a promoter of the best research in the field. The field is rich in practitioners but is lacking a
coherent body of research. In recent years a number of attempts to codify health policies and practices for the benefit of the humanitarian assistance community have been launched. The SPHERE Project—a group of nongovernmental organizations—has produced a set of guidelines for public health interventions in emergency settings. The nongovernmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières has published a manual entitled Refugee Health: An Approach to Emergency Situations (1997). In addition, a number of short-term training courses have been developed, including the Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP) course sanctioned by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Public Health in Complex Emergencies course, which is partially funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. All of these are intended to convey the state of the art to health care practitioners who serve refugees.
Yet the scientific basis for these currently recommended best practices is rarely presented along with the guidelines. And many of the current recommendations are based on older, perhaps even outdated, analyzes and summaries of the literature. Furthermore, even when data are available, they are frequently inconsistent, unreliable, and spotty. Few of the currently recommended practices are based on scientifically valid epidemiological or clinical studies conducted among the refugee populations they are intended to benefit. Recognition of the need for a more evidence-based body of knowledge to guide the public health work practiced by the relief community has led to a widespread call for more epidemiological research. This was acted on by the World Health Organization, which formed an Advisory Group for Research in Emergency Settings.
In some sense the current wave of recommendations represents the end of a cycle of learning that began with the publication of a series of papers in the medical literature in the late 1980s. The data contained in those papers were originally generated during the period 1978-1986. But the world and the nature of forced migration have changed a great deal since then, and the relevance of those data can now be called into question. Therefore, the roundtable and the Program on Forced Migration and Health at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University have commissioned a series of epidemiological reviews on priority public health problems for forced migrants that will update the state of knowledge. These occasional monographs are individually authored documents presented to the roundtable and any recommendations or conclusions are solely attributable to the authors. It is hoped these reviews will result in the formulation of
newer and more scientifically sound public health practices and policies and will identify areas in which new research is needed to guide the development of health care policy. Many of the monographs may represent newer areas of concern for which no summary information is available in the published literature.
The present monograph—reviewing the literature on research of psychosocial issues in humanitarian work, especially as it relates to children who have been exposed to prolonged violence and armed conflict—is the third in the series. In addition to a review of the literature (an annotated bibliography is included), it provides an overview of psychosocial concepts in research. Other topics under consideration in the series include reviews of current knowledge on reproductive health, malnutrition, and diarrheal diseases, as well as illustrative case studies.
This monograph has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review was to provide candid and critical comments that would assist the institution in making the published monograph as accurate and as sound as possible. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential.
Carolyn Makinson, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, served as review coordinator for this monograph. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Kirk Felsman, Center for Documentary Studies, Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University; and Jennifer Leaning, François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, School of Public Health, Harvard University.
Although the individuals listed above provided constructive comments and suggestions, it must be emphasized that responsibility for this monograph rests entirely with the authors.
This series of monographs is being made possible by a special collaboration between the Roundtable on the Demography of Forced Migration of the National Academy of Sciences and the Program on Forced Migration and Health at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University. We thank the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its continued support of the work of the roundtable and the program at Columbia. A special thanks is due Carolyn Makinson of the Mellon Foundation for her enthusiasm and significant expertise in the field of forced migration, which
she has shared with the roundtable, and for her help in facilitating partnerships such as this.
Most of all, we are grateful to the authors of this report. We hope that this publication contributes to both better policy and better practice in the field.
Charles B. Keely
Chair, Roundtable on the Demography of Forced Migration
Ronald J. Waldman
Member, Roundtable on the Demography of Forced Migration
Holly E. Reed
Program Officer, Roundtable on the Demography of Forced Migration