Afghan children seeking asylum in the UK: PTSD symptoms minimized for those children placed in foster care

October 19, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—A new study indicates that about one-third of asylum-seeking Afghan children who arrive in the UK without their parents or a guardian are likely to be experience symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. However, they also found those in foster care were less likely to be suffering from PTSD than those in shared accommodation with other asylum-seekers and refugees.

The research by Oxford University looked at boys or young men aged between 13 and 18 years old. The study suggests that of this group, teenagers in foster care were less likely to be suffering from post-traumatic stress and this could be because those in foster care received more support.

Published in the , this is the largest study to examine the prevalence of probable PSTD amongst unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK, and is the first ever to examine this among Afghan unaccompanied asylum-seekers. This is despite the fact that Afghans are the largest group of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK. Although around half of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the UK are from Afghanistan, there is very limited evidence on the state of their mental health, notes the study.

The study finds that the proportion of Afghans in this group likely to be suffering from post traumatic stress (34 per cent) is roughly in line with other studies of unaccompanied child asylum-seekers, but is notably higher than rates in the general population.

Researcher Professor Paul Montgomery, from the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at the University of Oxford, said: 'Although Afghan children are the biggest group of unaccompanied asylum-seekers in the UK, this is the first and largest robust study to look at how their mental health is affected by what they have been through.

'Perhaps one of the most significant findings of this study is the mediating influence that foster carers have in this.

'In examining the of this vulnerable group of teenagers, we found that those in foster care did best. We believe this is because they received a higher level of support than those in shared accommodation.

'We hope that these findings can inform future intervention policies concerning unaccompanied asylum-seekers.'

The study also points out that six out of every ten (62%) of the Afghan children did not report symptoms relating to and most of the children stayed in a relatively good mental state, suggesting a high level of resilience. They suggest that more research needs to be done into the resilience perspective to increase our understanding of the protective mechanisms at work for this at-risk population.

Researcher Dr Israel Bronstein, from the Department of Social Policy and Intervention, said: 'The resilience shown by most of the children is quite a surprising finding. Considering everything they have gone through: from the tumultuous experiences of war to the dangers of getting from Afghanistan to the UK.

'Once they are here, they have then to cope with financial worries, learn a new language, and they are living in a country very different to their own. And all this is done without the support of their parents. Yet despite these hugely stressful and often traumatic events, these results suggest that most of the children probably don't suffer from post-traumatic stress. The resilience aspect to this is certainly something that warrants further research in future studies concerning asylum-seekers and refugees.'

The researchers worked closely with the UK Border Agency and a local authority to gain access to the Afghan unaccompanied child asylum-seekers. The study's findings are based on self-reporting from 222 , who completed validated questionnaires. Interpreters in Pashtun and Dari languages were present throughout the process. Out of the group studied, 62 per cent were in and 37 per cent were in shared living arrangements which included a very small number in emergency accommodation awaiting placements.

Explore further: Call for mental health needs of child refugees to be met

More information: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10 … 2/jts.21740/abstract

Related Stories

Call for mental health needs of child refugees to be met

August 11, 2011
Prolonged and bureaucratic asylum processes in the West are having negative effects on children’s mental health, according to Oxford University psychiatrists and colleagues.

Australian alarm over child asylum-seeker suicide bid

September 26, 2011
Asylum-seekers as young as nine have attempted suicide in Australian immigration lock-ups, the top medical body said Monday, as it slammed detention of youngsters as akin to "child abuse".

Mental health of child refugees is global problem

August 11, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A recent two-part study, published online in the Lancet, highlights the urgent need for high-income countries and international agencies to contribute towards the funding of interventions to tackle the ...

Recommended for you

Schizophrenia drug development may be 'de-risked' with new research tool

November 22, 2017
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) have identified biomarkers that can aid in the development of better treatments for schizophrenia.

Study finds infection and schizophrenia symptom link

November 22, 2017
If a mother's immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a University of Otago study has revealed.

Self-harm, suicide attempts climb among US girls, study says

November 21, 2017
Attempted suicides, drug overdoses, cutting and other types of self-injury have increased substantially in U.S. girls, a 15-year study of emergency room visits found.

Car, stroller, juice: Babies understand when words are related

November 20, 2017
The meaning behind infants' screeches, squeals and wails may frustrate and confound sleep-deprived new parents. But at an age when babies cannot yet speak to us in words, they are already avid students of language.

Simple EKG can determine whether patient has depression or bipolar disorder

November 20, 2017
A groundbreaking Loyola Medicine study suggests that a simple 15-minute electrocardiogram could help a physician determine whether a patient has major depression or bipolar disorder.

Non-fearful social withdrawal linked positively to creativity

November 20, 2017
Everyone needs an occasional break from the social ramble, though spending too much time alone can be unhealthy and there is growing evidence that the psychosocial effects of too much solitude can last a lifetime.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.