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Abstract Simone Möhlmann (2020)

The recent flow of refugees included a lot of children. Refugee children are torn between different languages and cultures and often struggle with their identity. The process of acculturation can widen the gap between their home and the outside world. Someone’s identity changes their whole life, however the adolescence is important for identity formation. Many experiences, such as fleeing, parentification, discrimination and thoughts on gender can cause shifts in identity building. The views of young refugees on victimhood versus empowerment, bi-cultural identity building and connected wishes for and experiences with support by healthcare professionals is unknown. Insight into these views and experiences can help shape further person-centred healthcare.

For this qualitative study, eleven semi-structured interviews were conducted with refugees aged 18-40 whom arrived as a 4-12 year old child in the Netherlands. Participants were purposively sampled until theoretical data saturation was reached. Inductive coding and thematic analysis were carried out.

Young refugees should be empowered to participate without focussing on being different according to the participants. Views on victimhood differed, however they did not perceive themselves as being a victim. Participants mentioned different experiences with their general practitioner (GP). Most important empowering factor was providing culturally competent care. Participants mentioned the need for education about the Dutch health care system and the role of a GP in order to adjust to their parents’ expectations. Participants reported their need for guidance with the Dutch systems and education about that for their parents in order to unburden them.

It is empowering for the bi-cultural identity building of young refugees if the GP pays attention to the patients’ context, proactively asks about psychosocial problems and treats all patients the same. To better endorse the needs of refugee children, health care providers, including GP’s, should improve their culturally sensitive and personalised care.

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