Psychological distress in refugee children

Added April 11, 2020

Citation: Bronstein I, Montgomery P. Psychological distress in refugee children: a systematic review. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review 2011; 14(1): 44-56

Free to view: No

What is this? The COVID-19 pandemic is causing considerable stress to migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Children, especially those who are defined as refugees or IDPs, are vulnerable to the psychological effects of traumatic stressors during their migration process. Research into the mental health epidemiology of refugee children can provide evidence to inform interventions.

In this systematic review, the authors searched for studies of the epidemiology of mental health in refugee and asylum-seeking children who were in Western countries. They restricted their search to studies published between 2003 and 2008 and did the search in February 2008. They included 22 studies from six countries of asylum (3003 children, originally from more than 40 countries).

What was found: Studies varied in definition and measurement of problems among the children, but these included post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (in 19% to 54% of children), depression (3% to 30%) and varying degrees of emotional and behavioral problems.

Demographic variables, cumulative traumatic pre-migration experiences and post-migration stressors appear to influence levels of distress among in refugee and asylum-seeking children in Western countries.

What’s uncertain: The comparison of data regarding the prevalence of mental health issues among refugee children is challenging because of the influence of various contextual variables that affect distress, such as demographic factors, post-migration stressors such as obtaining asylum status, and available levels of support.


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