Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Social Exclusion and Identity Construction Among Non-Accompanied Refugee Adolescents

Dr Charlotte Sabbah.

Social Exclusion and Identify Construction Among Non-Accompanied Refugee Adolescents
According to Erik Erikson and other occidental psychologists, identity development cannot be achieved without the integration of all the major elements of one’s experience. These must form an integrated whole, coherent and individually specific. This occidental assumptions cannot however be generalized to all, and especially not to youth displaced by emigration or flight from one’s own country. While forced to separate from their childhood models because they have become inappropriate for their new life, they cannot identify with models of the new society who consider them aliens because of their impermanent status, but which still expects them to assimilate. As “good immigrants”, they should behave like “us” and support the new countries’ social, family and moral structures. These youth therefore become, according to Abdelmalek Sayad, « absent » emigrants and immigrants. However, a study about coping mechanisms of non-accompanied refugee adolescents shows that adolescents do find ways of constructing successful identities. They do so by refusing to detach from their childhood models, and therefore maintain their psychological equilibrium in the face of social exclusion. This mechanism makes their flight meaningful while providing them with a sense of continuity and coherence essential to the construction of their identity.
The focus of this presentation will be to demonstrate the importance of a multidisciplinary and culturally sensitive analysis for the development of psychosocial integration programs addressing the needs of immigrant and refugee youth.


Dr Charlotte Sabbah  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Human Services, Human Development
Empire State College (SUNY)

Charlotte Sabbah, Ph.D., teaches education and human services at Empire State College (SUNY), NY. Her scholarship is on non-accompanied refugee adolescents’ rights and psychosocial development. Her extensive international background includes child welfare, ethno-psychology counseling, program development, social justice advocacy and migration studies.

  • Social Exclusion
  • Refugees
  • Assimilation
  • Adolescents
  • Identity construction
  • Attachment/detachment
  • Psychosocial

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)