Advanced SearchSearch Tips
North Korean Refugee Children's Separation Experiences and Level of Attachment
facebook(new window)  Pirnt(new window) E-mail(new window) Excel Download
  • Journal title : Korean Journal of Child Studies
  • Volume 37, Issue 1,  2016, pp.17-36
  • Publisher : Korean Association of Child Studies
  • DOI : 10.5723/kjcs.2016.37.1.17
 Title & Authors
North Korean Refugee Children's Separation Experiences and Level of Attachment
Kim, Heuijeong; Yi, Soonhyung;
  PDF(new window)
Objective: Taking note of the fact that North Korean refugee children experience frequent separation from their mothers and long-term maternal deprivation during their childhood, this study examined the relationship between children's separation experiences and attachment. Methods: A total of 37 children aged from 5 to 9 were assessed on their attachment using the Separation Anxiety Test, and their mothers reported on their child's separation experiences. Results and Conclusion: The major findings of this study were as follows: first, the result of evaluating their attachment pattern showed North Korean refugee children had a high level of insecure attachment with a high tendency for avoidant attachment. This avoidant attachment tendency is probably due to growing up in a repressed emotional environment by frequently experiencing maternal separation in North Korea, China, and even after settling down in South Korea. Second, children's secure attachment level was higher if they did not experience separation from their mother, if their mother had a high level of education in South Korea, or if they lived with a big family.
North Korean refugee children;Separation experiences;Attachment issues;
 Cited by
Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. N. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. New york, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.

Boss, P. (2007). Ambiguous loss theory: Challenges for scholars and practitioners. Family Relations, 56(2), 105-111. crossref(new window)

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Attachment (Vol. 1). London: Hogarth Press London.

Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and loss: Separation (Vol. 2). London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

Bowlby, J. (1982). Attachment and loss: Retrospect and prospect. American journal of Orthopsychiatry, 52(4), 664-678. crossref(new window)

Cho, B. H., & Lee, J. Y. (2006). Attachment with caregivers and adjustment of Korean-Chinese children separated from their parents. Korean Journal of Child Studies, 27(4), 247-263.

Cho, Y. A. (2012). The Experiences of Child Reunification among North Korean Women in South Korea. Korean Journal of counseling and Psychology, 24(1), 197-222.

Choi, E. J. (2014). An fMRI study of children's neural responses according to the level of attachment security (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea.

Fox, P. G., Cowell, J. M., & Johnson, M. M. (1994). Effects of family disruption on Southeast Asian refugee women. International Nursing Review, 42(1), 27-30.

Grossmann, K., Grossmann, K. E., Spangler, G., Suess, G., & Unzner, L. (1985). Maternal sensitivity and newborns' orientation responses as related to quality of attachment in northern Germany. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1/2), 233-256. doi: 10.2307/3333836 crossref(new window)

Hansburg, H. G. (1972). Adolescent separation anxiety: A method for the study of adolescent separation problems. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher.

Harris, T., & Bifulco, A. (1991). Loss of parent in childhood, attachment style, and depression in adulthood. In C. M. Parkes, J. Stevenson-Hinde, & P. Marris (Eds.), Attachment across the life cycle (pp. 234-267). London and New York: Routledge.

Harwood, R. L., Miller, J. G., & Irizarry, N. L. (1997). Culture and attachment: Perceptions of the child in context. New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Howe, D. (Ed.). (1996). Attachment and loss in child and family social work. Aldershot, England: Avebury.

Jeon, W. T. (2000). Adaptation of North Korean children and adolescent refugees to South Korean society. In T. W. Jeon (Ed.), For the unification of people. Seoul, Korea: Oreum.

Jung, S. W. (2004). Association between attachment style of children in institutional care and psychosocial adaptation. Journal of Korean Council for Children & Rights, 8(1), 1-15.

Kang, J. H. (2010). Children's rights to food and health, the rights to protection, and the rights to education in North Korea kindergarten. Journal of Korean Council for Children & Rights, 14(4), 487-507.

Kim, H. J., Kwon, Y. J., Lee, S. H., & Lee, K. Y. (2014, November). Narrative inquiry on childhood experiences and relationships between children and parents of North Korean refugee adolescents. Poster presented at the Autumn Conference of the Korean Association of Child Studies, Seoul, Korea.

Kim, S. J., & Kwon, J. H. (2004). The effects of separation experience before 6 age on friendship quality and depression of children. The Korean Journal of Clinical Psychology, 23(3), 637-655.

Kim, Y. M., Lee, K. S., Park, J. A., Lee, K. H., & Jin, M. K. (2008). Attachment classification and family-perceptions in foster children. The Korean Journal of Human Development, 15(3), 63-87.

Kim, Y. T., Hong, G. H., & Kim, K. H. (2009). Content and reliability analyses of the Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary Test (REVT). Communication Sciences and Disorders, 14(1), 34-45.

Kobak, R., & Madsen, S. (2008). Disruptions in attachment bonds: Implications for theory, research, and clinical intervention. In J. Cassidy, & P. R. Shaver (Eds.), Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications (2nd ed., pp. 23-47). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Korean Hana Foundation. (2014). Research on the actual condition of North Korean Refugee. Seoul, Korea: Korean Hana Foundation. Retrieved from

Korean Peninsula Reconciliation Center. (2008). Report on the family environment of the second generation of North Korean refugees in China, with special emphasis on the situation of motherless children born to North Korean mothers. Seoul, Korea: Korean Peninsula Reconciliation Center.

Lee, B. M. (2003). Field studies on the adaptation processes for North Korean refugee children at an educational institute (Hanawon) in South Korea. Korean Journal of Early Childhood Education, 23(2), 115-145.

Lyons-Ruth, K. (1996). Attachment relationships among children with aggressive behavior problems: The role of disorganized early attachment patterns. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64(1), 64-73. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.64.1.64 crossref(new window)

Main, M., & Hesse, E. (1990). Parents' resolved traumatic experiences are related to infant disorganized attachment status: Is frightened and/or frightening behavior the linking mechanism? In M. T. Greenberg, D. Cicchetti, & E. M. Cummings (Eds.), Attachment in the preschool years (pp. 161-182). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Main, M., & Solomon, J. (1990). Procedures for identifying infants as disorganized/disoriented during the Ainsworth Strange Situation. In M. T. Greenberg, D. Cicchetti, & M. Cummings (Eds.), Attachment in the preschool years: Theory, research, and intervention (pp. 121-160). Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Ministry of Unification. (2016). North Korea refugees Policy [Data file]. Sejong, Korea: Ministry of Unification. Retrieved from

Miyake, K., Chen, S. J., & Campos, J. J. (1985). Infant temperament, mother's mode of interaction, and attachment in Japan: An interim report. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 50(1/2), 276-297. doi: 10.2307/3333838 crossref(new window)

Resnick, G. (1993). Measuring attachment in early adolescence: A manual for the administration, coding and interpretation of the Separation Anxiety Test for 11 to 14 year olds. Rockville, MD: Westat, Inc.

Rousseau, C., Rufagari, M. -C., Bagilishya, D., & Measham, T. (2004). Remaking family life: Strategies for re-establishing continuity among Congolese refugees during the family reunification process. Social Science & Medicine, 59(5), 1095-1108. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2003.12.011 crossref(new window)

Slough, N. M., & Greenberg, M. T. (1990). Five-year-olds' representations of separation from parents: Responses from the perspective of self and other. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 1990(48), 67-84. doi:10.1002/cd.23219904806 crossref(new window)

Suarez-Orozco, C., Todorova, I. L. G., & Louie, J. (2002). Making up for lost time: The experience of separation and reunification among immigrant families. Family Process, 41(4), 625-643. doi: 10.1111/j.1545-5300.2002.00625.x crossref(new window)

Yi, S. H., Cho, S. C., Kim, C. D., & Chin, M. J. (2007). The social and psychological acculturation of North Korean defector families. Seoul, Korea: Seoul University Press.

Yi, S. H., Kim, C. D., & Chin, M. J (2009). Family dissolution and reorganization of North Korean refugees. Seoul, Korea: Seoul University Press.

Yi, S. H., Lee, K. C., Lee, K. Y., Lee, E. Y., Kim, D. N., Park, Y. S., & Choi, Y. S. (1999). Ideological characteristics and child rearing practices of North Korea. Korean Journal of Child Studies, 20(4), 43-59.