Comparing trauma exposure, mental health needs, and service utilization across clinical samples of refugee, immigrant, and US-Origin children

Report Author: 
Betancourt, T. S., Newnham, E. A., Birman, D., Lee, R., Ellis, B. H., & Layne, C. M
Original Date of Publication: 
2017 Jun

Although the experiences of immigrant children differ from refugee youth, both groups experience stressors associated with acculturation, resettlement, and potential abuse or community violence. Mental health care is underutilized among refugee youth given that most services do not take into account distinct traumatic experiences and histories resulting from war-related violence. To better understand and improve the mental health needs of trauma-exposed children, this study seeks to analyze the differences in the mental health profiles and service utilization between refugee children, immigrant children, and U.S. born children. Data was obtained from the Core Data Set (CDS) using a subsample of 339 children: refugee youth (n=60), immigrant youth (n=143), and U.S. born youth (n=140). Refugee children reported higher ratings of traumatic grief, dissociation, and somatization compared to U.S. born youth. Refugee youth were receiving services related to war/political related violence, traumatic loss, bereavement, cultural adjustment, sexual assault/rape, and forced displacement, but were not receiving services related to interpersonal or community violence, illness/medical problems, or serious injury/accident outcomes. Service providers need to implement comprehensive clinical assessments with refugee children, creating a multi-layered approach that involves the family, and assessing and addressing potential barriers for refugee children in accessing services. (Immigrant Integration Lab at Boston College)

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Citation: 

Betancourt, T. S., Newnham, E. A., Birman, D., Lee, R., Ellis, B. H., & Layne, C. M. (2017). Comparing Trauma Exposure, Mental Health Needs, and Service Utilization Across Clinical Samples of Refugee, Immigrant, and U.S.-Origin Children: Mental Health Service Use for Refugee Children. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 30(3), 209–218. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22186

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