Stressful Life Experiences and Mental Health Problems Among Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children

Clin Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2015 Jan;20(1):106-16. doi: 10.1177/1359104513499356. Epub 2013 Aug 27.

Abstract

Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children aged 10-16 years (N = 93, M = 13.8, SD = 1.4, 81% boys) were assessed 6 months after arrival in Norway (SD = 5 months). Participants originated from 14 countries (63% Asia; 36% Africa). Severe life events (SLE) and psychological symptoms were measured by self-report. Participants reported a mean of 5.5 SLE (SD = 2.4), the most prevalent being death of a close person (68%), witnessing violence (63%), and war (62%). Some 54% scored above clinical cutoff on posttraumatic stress symptoms, 30% on anxiety symptoms, 20% on depressive symptoms, and 7% on externalizing symptoms. Number of SLE was associated with posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (r =.50, p < .001), depression (r =.27, p = .020), and anxiety symptoms(r =. 34, p = .003), but not externalizing symptoms (r =.02, p = .874). None of the symptom variables were associated with age or gender. Results indicate that many unaccompanied asylum-seeking children have experienced not only war-related traumas but several other severe life adversities as well. It may thus be helpful to conduct early assessments on this group of children to assess their need for treatment or other psychosocial interventions.

Keywords: PTSD; Unaccompanied asylum seekers; children; mental health; stressful life events.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Africa / ethnology
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Asia / ethnology
  • Bereavement*
  • Child
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Warfare*