Objective: To compare Cambodian and Central American adolescent refugees to Quebec with their Quebec-born peers in regard to emotional and behavioural problems, feelings of competence, and risk-behaviour profiles, and to examine relations between emotional variables and living conditions in the 3 groups.
Method: The sample consisted of 76 Cambodian, 82 Central American and 67 Québécois youth living in the Montreal area. The teenagers' internalization and externalization symptoms were assessed using the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) and the Youth Self-Report (YSR); the YSR also provided a measure of their feelings of competence. Risk behaviour was reported by the teenagers. The socioeconomic status of the teenagers' households was taken into account in multiple regression analyses conducted for each group.
Results: The level of emotional and behavioural problems reported by teenagers was lowest in Central Americans and highest in Québécois; the latter group also reported more risk behaviours than did either refugee group. The socioeconomic status of the Cambodian and Central American refugee households was lower than that of the Québécois. Living conditions were not a major determinant of emotional distress in young Cambodians, but low annual income was associated with internalizing symptoms among Central American youth. The most powerful predictor of externalizing symptoms among the Québécois youth was having a single-parent household.
Conclusion: This study underscores the contrast between the living conditions of young Cambodian and Central American refugees to Quebec and those of Quebec-born youth. These refugees' precarious socioeconomic status is not accompanied by an increase in adolescents' emotional and behavioural problems.