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Comparative Study
. 2004 Jul;35(1):17-25.
doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2003.08.005.

Trauma and Coping in Somali and Oromo Refugee Youth

Comparative Study

Trauma and Coping in Somali and Oromo Refugee Youth

Linda L Halcón et al. J Adolesc Health. .


Purpose: To describe war-related trauma history, immigration factors, problems, and coping of Somali and Oromo refugee youth.

Methods: Analysis of a subset of participants (N = 338) aged 18-25 years from a population-based survey of Somali and Oromo refugees conducted in 2000-2002. Data included trauma history, life situation, and scales for physical (Cronbach alpha =.69), psychological (alpha =.56), and social problems (alpha =.69). Data were analyzed using Chi-square and Mann-Whitney U tests.

Results: Average emigration age was 14.8 years, with 4.2 years in transit and 2.0 years in the United States; 60% reported plans to return home to live. Two-thirds (66%) had less than a high school education, 49% had English language problems, 49% were employed (38% female vs. 57% male); 70% were single, with Somali females more likely than Oromo to be partnered and mothers (39% vs. 19%). There were significant ethnicity/gender differences for all problem scales. More females reported feeling alone (24% vs. 61%, p <.001). Youth with symptoms of posttraumatic stress syndrome reported more traumatic events (mean number of events: 28 vs.16). Trauma history was strongly associated with physical, psychological, and social problems. Most frequent strategies to combat sadness were praying (55.3%), sleeping (39.9%), reading (32.3%), and talking to friends (27.8%).

Conclusions: Many young Somali and Oromo immigrants to the United States experience life problems associated with war trauma and torture, but many others are coping well. The findings suggest a need to develop age-appropriate strategies to promote the health of refugee youth to facilitate their successful adaptation to adult life in the United States.

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