Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 1084–1093 | Cite as

A Mindfulness-Based Intervention for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors: A Pilot Study with Mixed Methods Evaluation

  • Katleen Van der GuchtEmail author
  • Jana Glas
  • Lucia De Haene
  • Peter Kuppens
  • Filip Raes



Unaccompanied refugee minors (UMs) experience worry and rumination, owing to living in refugee shelters and confronting many stressors that range from finances to health problems to personal safety concerns. The purpose of this study was to explore the feasibility of a mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) for UMs residing at the shelters of Minor Ndako in Belgium.


Of the 34 residents attending an information session, 13 expressed an interest to participate. Participants were between 13 and 18 years old. A MBI was offered in small groups between March 2015 and July 2016. The impact on symptoms of depression, positive and negative affect and on symptoms of post-traumatic stress was examined using questionnaires. Four individuals participated in a qualitative assessment on how they experienced the mindfulness.


Quantitative findings suggest that a MBI may reduce negative affect and improve positive affect, both with a medium effect size, and reduce symptoms of depression with a large effect size. Qualitative analyses show that experiences are unique and different among participants. Participants who completed the training make use of the mindfulness exercises as a new coping strategy in combination with other familiar coping strategies.


Although the feasibility in this population is not straightforward, results suggest that it may be useful to deliver MBIs in refugee shelters for UMs. These results are preliminary and have to be interpreted with caution due to the small self-selected sample. Therefore the results of this study can only be interpreted as initial, and in need of replication.


Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Mindfulness-Based Intervention Mixed methods evaluation Coping Positive and negative affect Depression 



This research was supported by a grant from the foundation “Stichting Koningin Paola”. Inge De Leeuw and Berti Persoons adapted the mindfulness-based program, with the assistance of Katharina Müllen. Inge De Leeuw and Berti Persoons delivered the intervention. We are grateful to the people of vzw MinorNdako for the organization and their support during the project, and sincerely thank all participants in the study. Special thanks goes to David Lowyck, the chairman of vzw MinorNdako, for his effort in supporting this study.


This study was funded by a grant from the foundation “Stichting Koningin Paola”. The writing of this article has been facilitated by KU Leuven Center for Excellence on Generalization Research (GRIP*TT; PF/10/005).

Author Contributions

K.V.D.G. designed and executed the study, analyzed the quantitative data, and wrote the paper. J.G. collected and analyzed the qualitative data and collaborated with the writing of the study. L.D.H. collaborated with the qualitative analyses and writing. P.K. and F.R. collaborated with the design, writing and editing of the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the ethics committee of KU Leuven on 7th November 2014 (SMEC G-2014 10 91).

Informed consent

Informed assent and consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leuven Mindfulness Centre, KU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Faculty of Psychology and Educational SciencesUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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