Special efforts are needed to address trauma in refugee youth

June 15, 2017

In a study of children and adolescents referred for mental health services at US trauma treatment sites, there were important differences in the experiences of refugee youth who were displaced by war-related violence relative to immigrants and those born in the United States.

Refugee youth had higher rates of exposure to forced displacement, community violence, and traumatic loss. Refugees also exhibited distinctive patterns of symptoms compared with their immigrant and US-origin peers—for example, higher rates of traumatic grief, phobia, dissociation, and somatization, and lower rates of sexual behavior problems, oppositional defiant disorder, and substance abuse.

The findings suggest that refugees report a distinct pattern of trauma exposure and have specialized treatment needs.

"It's critical that understand that distress can present in many forms including somatic complaints, grief, and social problems and that refugee children and youth today also face increased bullying given the current political context," said Dr. Theresa Betancourt, lead author of the Journal of Traumatic Stress study. "Helping families navigate their new environments successfully can be a critical step in engaging communities and also building relationships needed to address unmet needs due to past trauma and loss. Some of the best models we have seen across the country employ outreach, family-based prevention/family home visiting, and school-based models to meet refugees where they are and to help them build their new lives and hopeful futures."

Explore further: New tool measures resilience in adolescent Syrian refugees

More information: Theresa S. Betancourt et al, Comparing Trauma Exposure, Mental Health Needs, and Service Utilization Across Clinical Samples of Refugee, Immigrant, and U.S.-Origin Children, Journal of Traumatic Stress (2017). DOI: 10.1002/jts.22186

Related Stories

New tool measures resilience in adolescent Syrian refugees

June 15, 2017

Researchers from Yale University, together with partners at universities in Canada, Jordan, and the United Kingdom, have developed a brief and reliable survey tool to measure resilience in children and adolescents who have ...

Half of refugees traumatised: German psychotherapists

September 16, 2015

At least half of the refugees who have come to Germany have mental health problems because of trauma suffered in war or during their dangerous escapes, said the chamber of psychotherapists Wednesday.

High levels of anxiety found among Syrian refugee children

May 22, 2017

The Syria Civil War has exposed millions of civilians to extreme physical and emotional trauma. Anxiety is common among Syrian refugee children, affecting more than four in five children, according to research presented at ...

Refugees with PTSD regulate stress differently

March 15, 2017

New Michigan State University research has found that refugees diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder regulate stress differently than those who don't have the disorder, but may have experienced similar suffering.

Recommended for you

Tough times make for more impulsive pre-teens

June 23, 2017

The loss of a grandparent. Marital discord at home. Trouble with peers. When pre-teens are forced to deal with adverse life events such as these they tend to become more impulsive in their decision-making later in life. And ...

Following a friend leads to unsafe driving behavior

June 23, 2017

Have you ever tried following a friend in a car? It can stressful; if you don't keep up, you are likely to get lost. To avoid this, you may make unsafe driving manoeuvres to keep sight of the car ahead.

Video games can change your brain

June 22, 2017

Scientists have collected and summarized studies looking at how video games can shape our brains and behavior. Research to date suggests that playing video games can change the brain regions responsible for attention and ...

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.