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The evacuation of British children during World War II: A preliminary investigation into the long-term psychological effects

Foster, Diane; (2000) The evacuation of British children during World War II: A preliminary investigation into the long-term psychological effects. Doctoral thesis (D.Clin.Psy), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This study used attachment theory to hypothesise about the possible long-term psychological effects of the evacuation of British children during World War II, focusing on the experiences of children who were evacuated without their parents. Its primary aim was to determine whether any long-term psychological effects of this experience appear to exist. It also aimed to explore factors that could mediate or moderate the possible long-term impact of childhood evacuation on present psychological wellbeing. The study utilised a retrospective non-randomised design, comparing a group of 169 former evacuees with a group of 43 people who were children during the war but were not evacuated. No systematic differences between the two groups were found in terms of age, gender, marital status or social class. All participants completed a range of standardised self-report questionnaires relating to their present psychological wellbeing, present attachment style, present levels of social support, relationship with their parents during childhood, and a questionnaire regarding their experiences during the war. The experiences of evacuation reported by respondents varied widely. The findings indicated that attachment style mediated a relationship between childhood evacuation and present psychological wellbeing, such that former evacuees were more likely to have insecure attachment styles and therefore lower levels of psychological wellbeing. The experience of evacuation was found to moderate the relationship between quality of parenting and attachment style such that the association between quality of parenting and attachment style was stronger for people who had not been evacuated. Satisfaction with, but not quantity of, present social support was found to mediate a relationship between attachment style and present psychological wellbeing. The findings suggested that the age at which people were evacuated may be implicated in the effect of the evacuation on current levels of psychological wellbeing. The findings of the study are limited mainly by the method of measurement of attachment style and the possible biases inherent in the non-randomised design and method of recruitment. Nevertheless, they offer a tentative indication that the experience of evacuation is associated with long-term psychological vulnerability through its relationship with insecure attachment. This is discussed in terms of the possible impact of these issues on former evacuees as they age, and suggestions made for future research in light of these preliminary findings.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Clin.Psy
Title: The evacuation of British children during World War II: A preliminary investigation into the long-term psychological effects
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Psychology; Psychological wellbeing
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10098599
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