Objective: This study aims, firstly, to investigate the prevalence of emotional and behavioural problems in unaccompanied refugee children and adolescents living in Belgium. Secondly, this study compares the perspectives of the adolescents with those of social workers on the adolescents' emotional well-being.
Design: A total of 166 unaccompanied refugee children and adolescents, living in different large- and small-scale centres, in foster care or alone, participated in the study. Of them, 142 completed self-report questionnaires on emotional and behavioural problems (HSCL-37A, SDQ-self and RATS) and traumatic experiences (SLE), and for 124 refugee youths, social workers filled in two questionnaires on emotional and behavioural problems (CBCL/6-18 and SDQ-parent).
Results: Between 37 and 47% of the unaccompanied refugee youths have severe or very severe symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. Girls and those having experienced many traumatic events are at even higher risk for the development of these emotional problems. Social workers also report a high prevalence of internalising problems in this population and they also report important externalising problems in unaccompanied refugee youths.
Conclusion: Being unaccompanied is an important risk factor for the emotional well-being of refugee children and adolescents. Therefore, appropriate measures on reception and care should be taken in order to support these youths.