The Path to Adulthood: A Mixed-Methods Approach to the Exploration of the Experiences of Unaccompanied Minors in Portugal

Carla Moleiro, Sandra Roberto - Journal of Refugee Studies


Unaccompanied minors who reach the age of majority often experience this transition as a complex stage. Insecurity and helplessness may arise and, in some cases, survival without the support of the institutions and services that previously protected them as minors in the host country may mean becoming at risk for social exclusion. The objective of the present study was to characterize unaccompanied minors in Portugal (N = 67) and understand the processes of transition into the age of majority, using a mixed-methods approach. Quantitative (survey) and qualitative (interviews on autobiographical narratives) methodologies were used as a means of acknowledging the voice of minors/young adults in their trajectories and experiences. Two groups were included, with minors (in residential care) and youths who had already reached adulthood (living independently). Results illustrate diverse reasons for arrival in Portugal and distinct strengths and struggles in the integration experiences, with both positive and negative aspects being identified in the transition to autonomy.