Objective: To investigate the relative importance of various risk and protective factors for mental health and social adjustment in young refugee children.
Method: Of 50 Iranian refugee preschool children who were first evaluated 12 months after arriving in Sweden, 39 were reevaluated in a follow-up study 2 1/2 years later. The effect of exposure to organized violence, age, gender, individual vulnerability, parental functioning, and peer relationships on the children's well-being and adjustment was investigated using multiple and logistic regression analyses.
Results: Exposure to war and political violence and individual vulnerability before traumatic stress exposure were important risk factors for long-lasting post-traumatic stress symptomatology in children. Mothers' emotional well-being predicted emotional well-being in children, whereas children's social adjustment and self-worth were mainly predicted by the quality of their peer relationships.
Conclusions: The results underline the fact that refugee children's adaptation is the result of a complex process involving several interacting risk and protective factors. For many refugee children, current life circumstances in receiving host countries, such as peer relationships and exposure to bullying, are of equal or greater importance than previous exposure to organized violence.