Natural disasters, war exposure and forced displacement constitute humanitarian crises that represent potentially traumatic events in the lives of children around the world. Using a risk and resilience framework, the role of parents/caregivers in relation to children’s mental health outcomes will be reviewed. The scant empirical research relating to parenting interventions in these contexts will also be reviewed.
Across the three humanitarian crisis contexts, common risk factors for adverse child outcomes include: exposure to trauma for children and parents, parental mental health, changes in parenting behaviours, hardships and financial stress, domestic and community violence and a lack of accessible services. Equally important, common protective factors include: stable supportive parental relationships, strong family connectedness, and sustainable resources available to support families.
The importance of parents – in terms of both risk and resilience – is clear. Few culturally appropriate and sustainable parenting interventions exist, with even less published research evaluating these interventions. Strengthening families is an empirically supported means of buffering or protecting children from exposure to disaster, conflict and forced displacement; and must be the focus of future endeavours.