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About City

Sara Thommessen

PhD student

Department of Psychology

E: Sara.Thommessen.1@city.ac.uk

Supervisors: Dr Brenda Todd and Dr Paula Corcoran

Fellow of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development and Jacobs Foundation Mentored Fellowship Program for Early Career Scholars, mentored by Dr Mina Fazel, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford.

Thesis title: Refugee trauma: Evaluating assessment measures and interventions for asylum-seeking and refugee children, youth and families

Overview and research interests

Sara's PhD research involves working with refugees who have experienced trauma in their country of origin and who face additional difficulties in the host society. More specifically, the focus is on the intergenerational transmission of trauma; the effect of parental trauma on their children's development, and children and adolescents who have experienced direct trauma. Pre- and post assessments, including a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures, are presented before and after currently available interventions to measure changes in outcomes and meaning making.

Moreover, innovative programmes will be implemented and assessed. The broad aim of this research is to improve the experiences of children and youth affected by trauma and to investigate the processes involved in the transmission of trauma between family members. Further goals include seeking to maximise the chance of positive long-term outcomes for individuals, families and societies and to focus on individuals' own resources and resilience in the process.

Research interests:

  • Refugee trauma
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Intergenerational transmission of trauma
  • Refugees
  • Interventions
  • Outcome measures
  • Risk and resilience
  • Unaccompanied and separated refugee youth


  • Thommessen, S. & Todd, B.K. (2013). Evaluating a short intervention for refugee mothers who have been trafficked to the UK: Qualitative findings of the mothers' experience of taking part, LIFE Fall Academy, University of Zurich, October 12-17, 2013.
  • Thommessen, S., Todd, B.K. & Corcoran, P. (2013). Evaluating an intervention for refugee youth who entered their host society as unaccompanied minors and second generation refugee youth: Qualitative findings about the experience of taking part, 2013 ISSBD Regional Workshop on Social Development and Interpersonal Dynamics in Childhood and Adolescence, Budapest, September 12-14, 2013
  • Thommessen, S., Todd, B.K. (2013). The experience of taking part in a short intervention using a qualitative assessment based on George Kelly's Personal Construct Theory and Method. The 16th European Conference on Developmental Psychology (ECDP) in Lausanne, September 2013.
  • Todd, B.K., Thommessen, S. (2013). Adapting Kelly's personal construct methodology for evaluating interventions with young refugees. The European Conference on Developmental Psychology, Lausanne, September 2013.
  • Thommessen, S., Corcoran, P. & Todd, B.K. (2013). Enhancing resilience in asylum-seeking, first generation and second generation refugee youth: Findings from a brief intervention. Red Cross Resilience Conference, London.
  • Thommessen, S., Laghi, F., Cerrone, C., Baiocco, R. & Todd, B. K. (2013). Internalizing and Externalizing Symptoms among Unaccompanied Refugee and Italian Adolescents, Children and Youth Services Review, 35, 7-10.
  • Thommessen, S.A.O. & Todd, B.K. (2011). Evidence of early stereotypical and counter-stereotypical knowledge: Young children's understanding of gender-typed categories and preferences using a forced choice with instructions task. 15th European Conference on Developmental Psychology Bergen, Norway, August 23 - 27.
  • Todd, B.K. & Thommessen, S.A.O. (2011). Early gender development: young children's toy preferences and implicit understanding of gender-typing. 15th European Conference on Developmental Psychology Bergen, Norway, August 23 - 27.


Module leader of PS1006, Lifespan Psychology, City, University of London.