Long‑term mental health in unaccompanied refugee minors: pre‑ and post‑flight predictors

Unaccompanied refugee minors are a particularly vulnerable Group.

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The aim of this study is to increase our knowledge about possible pathways to well-being and integration for unaccompanied refugee minors as they strive to establish new lives in a host county. The present study followed a group of youth who fled to Norway without their caregivers at three time points; 6 months (n = 95; M age = 13.8, 80% boys), 2 years (n = 78; M age = 16.5, 83% boys), and 5 years (n = 47; M age 20.0, 83% boys) after arrival. Linear mixed effects models were used to assess whether age, gender, and trauma exposure prior to arrival were associated with levels and changes in symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTS), depression, anxiety, and externalizing symptoms over time. Regression analyses were conducted to examine whether daily hassles, perceived social support, and new trauma experiences predict PTS, internalization, externalization, and somatization. The mean levels of depression had decreased significantly at 5 years, but mean levels of anxiety, PTS, and externalizing symptoms did not. Females and severely trauma exposed had higher levels of symptoms. Higher age was associated with less change in symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress over time. Five years after arrival, many still experienced clinical levels of mental health problems, and level of daily hassles was an important predictor. Support may be needed not only at arrival to handle mental health problems in general and posttraumatic stress in particular, but also after resettlement. Help to manage daily hassles may be especially important to ensure well-being and integration.

European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2019, doi.org/10.1007/s00787-019-01340-6

Published May 13, 2019 6:00 AM - Last modified Feb. 15, 2021 1:41 PM