Evaluating a Culturally Responsive Social Emotional Learning Intervention for Refugee Adolescents in Tijuana, Mexico
Zainab Hosseini

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Stanford University

Primary Discipline

The United Nations Children?s Relief Fund (UNICEF) estimates that in 2020, almost half of the global refugee population were children, and 1 in 3 children living outside their countries of birth were considered refugees. These children face an intertwined set of adversities throughout multiple stages of their displacement that places them at a high risk for experiencing disruptions to their social, emotional, and cognitive development. There is a burgeoning interest among the humanitarian aid community to harness the power of social emotional learning (SEL) in ameliorating some of these consequences. However, many extant programs have been designed using imperialist mindsets that conceptualize refugees as inept at guiding their own growth. Further, the use of frameworks originally designed for use within stable western nations in emergency contexts has led to ample cultural and contextual incoherence. Situated in Tijuana, Mexico, this dissertation project has engaged refugee caregivers and shelter directors in the co-creation of a brief SEL program titled VAMOS! to support refugee adolescents? social development during active displacement. In collaboration with La Universidad Autónoma de Baja California and Save the Children, Mexico, this culturally responsive program is being implemented across multiple shelters serving refugees and Internally Displaced Populations (IDPs). Through a longitudinal blocked randomized experimental design, participants at each shelter are randomized into receiving either VAMOS! or a popular SEL program designed by a major international NGO. This project explores whether brief SEL programs can support refugee adolescents? social outcomes and whether culturally responsive programs are more successful at doing so.
About Zainab Hosseini
Zainab Hosseini is a Ph.D. candidate in Developmental and Psychological Sciences at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Her work is concerned with addressing the deleterious consequences of exposure to adverse life events when refugee adolescents are forcibly displaced. She focuses on using access to education in emergency settings such as armed conflicts to facilitate psychosocial support services for adolescents. Rooted in community-based participatory research, Zainab?s work consistently engages the power and wisdom of refugee communities to co-develop culturally responsive and contextually relevant programs supporting refugee adolescents? social and emotional development. She has built community partnerships with multiple international NGOs in Iran, Lebanon, Greece, and Mexico to facilitate research-practice projects that can meaningfully address refugees? priorities. Zainab?s research at Stanford has also included mixed-methods studies of ethnic/racial identity development and psychological well-being among Native American adolescents. She is an MA candidate at the Stanford Department of Psychology studying the cultural sensitivity of popular social emotional learning programs for global populations. She leads the Global Mental Health team at the Muslim Mental Health and Islamic Psychology Lab where she explores cultural concepts of distress among Afghan refugee adolescents in the US. Zainab completed her Ed.M. at Harvard University where she took part in a collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to evaluate psychosocial and educational services for refugees in Iran. She subsequently earned an MSW from the University of Michigan. Zainab completed a post-MSW fellowship at Boston Children?s Hospital, serving as a psychotherapist in the Division of Adolescent Medicine.

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