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Undergraduate Social Work Literature Review Sample

Published by at April 27th, 2023 , Revised On February 2, 2024

The Impact of Trauma on the Educational Attainment and Wellbeing of Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children Living in the United Kingdom.


This literature review is mainly based on investigating the suffering of asylum-seeking and migrant children regarding their mental health and wellbeing. The primary goal of this literature review is to assess the studies and various pieces of literature that could help evaluate the actual impact of trauma and the unavailability of fundamental human rights for asylum-seeking children.

The selected area of review has not been much investigated in the UK. Therefore, this literature review will play a role in bringing together all the information and studies done in the mentioned research areas from other countries. Moreover, this literature review aims to comply with given learning outcomes and depict the key findings deliberately and comprehensively.

Also, this review will consider the policy, practice, and research implications of the selected studies and will also put a light on other different perspectives of the studies to strengthen their outcomes. The literature identified for this review does not comply with the exact topic. Still, the significant idea behind all the studies is the same, which is to investigate the impact of correct human issues and different traumas on the wellbeing and educational progress of asylum-seeking unaccompanied children living in the UK.

Key Findings

Definitions: this review informs the imperative investigation on different aspects of migrants development referred to as educational provision and mental wellbeing. Most of the selected studies for this literature review targets the impact of traumas suffered by the unaccompanied children asylum seekers at various stages of childhood and during migration on their education and wellbeing.

Measurement: the statistics and findings of all the studies were mainly based on the mix-methods of research conducted in the UK. Most of the studies accompanied peer reviews, observer interviews and focus groups. All these methods have justified the findings of their comparative research and complied with the primary aims of the studies, respectively.

Background: the trauma for children continues during adapting to a new life and culture in the host country. These challenges are observed to negatively affect the mental health of refugee children. They cannot show a better performance academically nor in their entire life.

Outcomes: Most of the unaccompanied refugee children in the UK could not show resilience to the traumas and oppression they had to face in different forms. This is why most studies support the adverse impact of traumas and children’s inability to show resilience on their educational attainment and mental health.

Practice: this review could not identify the solutions and strategic implications to the impacts of trauma faced by asylum-seeking children in the UK. However, a part of the review depicted the policies and strategies followed in England to provide educational facilities to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children ( UASC). Moreover, this review offers efficient examples of approaches based on the socioeconomic nature of children to mitigate the impacts of trauma they have gone through.

Background of the Topic

It has been evident that the number of individuals seeking asylum in the United Kingdom is rising as from year to year, the number has already increased over the last ten years. Around 4000 people were recorded to be applied in 1987, and this statistic has risen in the past few years up to approximately 30,000 ( Linton et al., 2018).

Moreover, within the total population of asylum seekers worldwide, unaccompanied children refugees were observed and identified as vulnerable groups at risk from fundamental human rights, including violence, neglect, forced military recruitment, and sexual assault ( Ehntholt et al., 2018). It is evident from a survey that adolescents and young asylum seekers are perceived to be an exceptionally vulnerable group due to the psychological distress caused by the painful and traumatic experiences they keep on facing in their origin countries and during travelling while waiting in asylum seeker’s centres ( ASCs) ( Arakelyan et al., 2020).

Moreover, the trauma for children continues during adapting to a new life and culture in the host country. These challenges are observed to negatively affect the mental health of refugee children. They cannot show a better performance academically nor in their entire life. Nevertheless, it is considered wrong or unethical to claim the unaccompanied children asylum seekers’ mental health issues as proof of lack of resilience.

Some of these may be the normal reaction to abnormal circumstances ( Crea et al., 2018). In these cases, the outcomes of children are observed rationally in the UK and are treated accordingly. It is also imperative to study the impact of traumas and the adaptation process of the refugee’s social ecology. For children and young adults, war, inadequate social security, fleeing from their origin countries, and adapting to the new living environment lead to the remarkable alteration and disturbance of social ecology and infrastructure, which results in high traumas and depression ( Humphris et al., 2019).

That is why most children do not find themselves able to achieve many things in life. Therefore, it can be said that unaccompanied children and young asylum seekers’ exposure to post-migration anxiety are best perceived as reflecting issues in the connection among demands of the setting in which they reside and other protective factors.

Aims and Objectives

This literature review aims to develop a compelling summary of the selected piece of literature on the impacts and outcomes of traumas faced by asylum-seeking children on educational performance and mental wellbeing. Another aim is to develop a framework for future researchers who target this research area for further information.


The literature selected for this review was gathered through secondary sources, including research papers, systematic reviews, and empirical studies. This literature search was conducted using the keywords of the identified topic for this literature review. It was intended to identify references related to the impact of traumas faced by asylum-seeking children in the UK on their mental wellbeing and educational performance. Around five studies are selected for this review, and the expectations are that compelling findings will be deducted through the selected studies.


Study one

Title: Psychological trauma and access to primary healthcare for people from refugee and asylum-seeker backgrounds: a mixed-methods systematic review.

The key theme of this systematic review is the trauma that asylum seekers face due to the lack of access to enough primary healthcare. The identified theme is that the health care assessment was taken comparatively or higher than the general population, and the mental healthcare rates were meagre. In contrast, rates of psychological trauma were high.

This study claims that young adults seeking asylum and from refugee backgrounds are more likely to face mental health issues than the general population ( Due et al., 2020). They are most prone to a wide range of barriers and facilitators to service access. The methodology used for this study is the mix-method for a systematic review of literature that considers the connection between psychological traumas and their access to primary health.

This study was conducted in the UK, while the eligibility criteria for this study were empirical. Peer-reviewed studies were preferred because they consider the relationship between psychological trauma and access to basic healthcare facilities for adult and children asylum seekers. Before explaining the findings of this study, the limitation concerning the current review topic can be identified. Firstly, this systematic review did not talk about children in particular but the adult asylum seekers.

Moreover, there was a discussion about the academic behaviour of refugees when they live in the hosting country; however, this discussion is not supported much. There was more discussion on the psychological traumas and mental health of the asylum seekers and the access they get to primary healthcare. This systematic review concluded that there are significant barriers to service access for asylum seekers, including somatization, stigma, and enough education about psychological trauma.

Moreover, this study is slightly relevant to the current research area and can be applied to the practice anyway because there is a critical need for most research. This study also drew some recommendations, including the training and education of migrants and the general practitioners concerning psychological traumas.

Study Two

Title: Psychological wellbeing of the child and adolescent refugee and asylum seeker

Key themes of this systematic review are explained in different parts. Firstly, the cleat demonstration is that asylum-seeking children and adolescents are highly vulnerable to the impacts of pre-migration, due to which they are exposed to trauma ( McCarthy et al., 2010). The second identified theme of this study is that some groups in this set of children migrants who are unaccompanied and separated comprise the higher risk of mental health issues and are engaged in the unknown process of sought asylum.

Another critical aspect of this study is that specific risk and protective factors aggravate poor mental health. The identified factors in the survey are parental psychological health, disposition factor-like adaptability, temperament, environmental factors, and self-esteem. This study has extensively covered the research findings of the past ten years, which reflect the information collected about the psychological wellbeing and health of children seeking asylum. This research also constitutes the mix-method and incorporates the search of content from sources like Medline, Academic Library, BioMedNet, PsycINFO, Science Direct, and EBSCO.

This study also had some limitations. Firstly, the academic performance of children who sought asylum and suffered from trauma was not confident in this study. However, mental health and wellbeing were discussed and critically analyzed in detail. This study is also depicting less clear information in a specific number of areas. These areas include the cultural role, children’s migration experience, trauma impacts, etc.

Moreover, the significant findings of this study targeted post-traumatic stress disorder and symptomology to investigate the effect of concussions on the children refugees. This study also concluded, which related to the topic of the current review too that numerous risks and protective factors are present which tend to aggravate children’s mental health. All this happens due to the trauma they faced and the family support problems, family cohesion, and disturbed psychological health.

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Study Three

Title: The impact of educational achievement on the integration and wellbeing of Afghan refugee youth in the UK.

The key theme of this paper included the examination of the factors which facilitate and obstruct the socioeconomic integration and wellbeing of child Afghan asylum seekers who just reached the UK as unaccompanied children and are now 18 years old or a little older ( Gladwell, 2020). This study has targeted studying some major factor in these children as an impact of trauma they have been facing.

These targeted factors comprise social capital, navigating abilities for the UK’s job market, assessing mental health. All of these factors are believed to affect the wellbeing of migrant children. This empirical study complies with the three data sources, including quantitative data gathered from the participants of local authorities of England, the in-depth interviews, the focus group discussion targeting 31 Afghan care-leavers in three regions, and the 14 key informant interviews with relevant psychological experts.

Complying with the aims and objective of the current study, this empirical research is highly relevant to the literature review topic. But the limitation is that the context is opposite as the selected study investigate the impact of educational attainment on the wellbeing of Afghan refugee children. Still, the primary topic is assessing trauma’s effects on wellbeing and educational provision on children.

However, both the issues are highly interrelated to each other, so this study can be followed into practice. Key findings of this study claim that there is a highly positive interrelationship among higher levels of education and efficient socioeconomic outcomes for the Afghan migrant children in the regions of England. However, the impact of migration and its entire traumatic process has limited education benefits in many children.

Moreover, the findings of this study highly comply with the debate rising in the literature by different researchers on the asylum seekers and migrant youth and children who arrive in the UK and other EU countries as the unaccompanied migrants seeking children with extensively insecure immigration status. However, the current reality depicts the situation where the unaccompanied children will remain unable to develop productive and prosperous future for themselves in any context. A study also claimed that various efforts made by NGOs and educational institutions to complete their traumas heal and support them for their secure future are undermined frequently due to the highly adverse impact of migration.

Study Four

Title: Conceptualizing educational provision for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in England.

The key theme of this selected research paper targets the practices of the UK’s government to regulate enough strategies for the children seeking asylum to mitigate the adverse impacts of their migration process. This study supports the idea that all children have the ultimate right to education, including migrant children, and this is written in the UK convention on the child’s request ( Ott et al., 2019).

A very little research is available to identify the impacts of trauma on the mental health and educational provision to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in England. This study clearly states that educational needs are not being met effectively for the migrant children in England. According to most recent statistics, the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) in England has increased by 130% since 2013.

As per the current strategies of the UK’s government, the schools, social workers and policymakers are making sure to mitigate the impacts of traumas children went through and enhance their abilities towards seeking education. However, the major limitation of this study is that it has assessed the educational strategies and policies but did not consider discussing the relationship of education and mental wellbeing for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The methodology used for this study is particularly the mapping assessment on the education provided to UASC in England, including 12 semi-structured interviews with the heads of virtual schools, teachers, social workers, charity education providers.

Moreover, another followed methodology was the document analysis by conducting a workshop at the education departments in most educational institutions of England with the help of communication with key stakeholders and summary statistics. Key findings of this study claim that unaccompanied migrant children have already gone through numerous problems and challenges during their journey from their country of origin to the host country.

These children face several challenges regarding their education too. These children find it difficult to assess what kind of educational provision will suit their needs. Moreover, the unaccompanied asylum-seeking children also faced individual and organizational barriers while accessing, progressing and sustaining in education. This study can be applied to the practice because the findings are pretty realistic and show the originality of the topic, and this study highly related to the subject of the literature review.


Arakelyan, S. and Ager, A., 2020. Annual Research Review: A multilevel bioecological analysis of factors influencing refugee children’s mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Crea, T.M., Hasson III, R.G., Evans, K., Berger Cardoso, J. and Underwood, D., 2018. Moving forward: Educational outcomes for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (URM) exiting foster care in the United States. Journal of Refugee Studies, 31(2), pp.240-256.

Due, C., Green, E. and Ziersch, A., 2020. Psychological trauma and access to primary healthcare for people from refugee and asylum-seeker backgrounds: a mixed methods systematic review. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 14(1), pp.1-18.

Ehntholt, K.A., Trickey, D., Harris Hendriks, J., Chambers, H., Scott, M. and Yule, W., 2018. Mental health of unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents previously held in British detention centres. Clinical child psychology and psychiatry, 23(2), pp.238-257.

Gladwell, C., 2020. The impact of educational achievement on the integration and wellbeing of Afghan refugee youth in the UK. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, pp.1-23.

Humphris, R. and Sigona, N., 2019. Outsourcing the ‘best interests’ of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the era of austerity. Journal of ethnic and migration studies, 45(2), pp.312-330.

Linton, J.M., Kennedy, E., Shapiro, A. and Griffin, M., 2018. Unaccompanied children seeking haven: Providing care and supporting wellbeing of a vulnerable population. Children and Youth Services Review, 92, pp.122-132.

McCarthy, C. and Marks, D.F., 2010. Exploring the health and wellbeing of refugee and asylum seeking children. Journal of Health Psychology, 15(4), pp.586-595.

Ott, E. and O’Higgins, A., 2019. Conceptualising educational provision for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in England. Oxford Review of Education, 45(4), pp.556-572.

Frequently Asked Questions

Asylum-seeking is the process of seeking refuge in another country due to fear of persecution in one’s home country based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. It involves requesting protection and legal recognition as a refugee.

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