Meta-Conceptual Thinking and Positive Outcomes among Youth in a Refugee Camp
Religious belief has been suggested to promote psychological well-being in adversity by providing meaningful frameworks for understanding the world. The cognitive mechanisms underlying this relationship, however, are not well understood in relation to children's development. This study tested whether positive outcomes among children living in a refugee camp are more closely related to religious explanations or an underlying cognitive process of meta-conceptual thinking. Meta-conceptual thought is defined as flexible mapping of concepts toward new conceptual structures with emergent meaning. 74 youth living in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya, participated in an interview where they were asked to explain their ideas about 9 impossible questions. Responses were separately coded for religious explanations and meta-conceptual thought. It was predicted that meta-conceptual thinking would be associated with positive outcomes among youth, independently of religious belief. Findings confirmed this hypothesis in relation to children's hope, self-efficacy, and academic achievement, such that children with higher meta-conceptual thinking showed more positive outcomes than their peers with low meta-conceptual thought. Religious explanations were unrelated to positive outcomes. It is suggested that children who exercise fluid conceptual structures are better able to maintain meaningful understandings of the world, and this process may better explain positive developmental outcomes amid adversity than previous accounts of religious coping.
Item removed from eCommons on 2012-05-17 at the request of the Department of Human Development, College of Human Ecology.
Cornell Presidential Research Scholars Program; Supported through an internship with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Kakuma, Kenya
cognitive development; conceptual thinking
dissertation or thesis