Mental Health of Refugee and Non-refugee Migrant Young People in European Secondary Education: The Role of Family Separation, Daily Material Stress and Perceived Discrimination in Resettlement

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  • Caroline Spaas
  • An Verelst
  • Ines Devlieger
  • Sanni Aalto
  • Arnfinn J. Andersen
  • Natalie Durbeej
  • Per Kristian Hilden
  • Reeta Kankaanpää
  • Nina Langer Primdahl
  • Marianne Opaas
  • Fatumo Osman
  • Kirsi Peltonen
  • Anna Sarkadi
  • Skovdal, Morten
  • Jervelund, Signe Smith
  • Emma Soye
  • Charles Watters
  • Ilse Derluyn
  • Hilde Colpin
  • Lucia De Haene
While scholarly literature indicates that both refugee and non-refugee migrant young people display increased levels of psychosocial vulnerability, studies comparing the mental health of the two groups remain scarce. This study aims to further the existing evidence by examining refugee and non-refugee migrants’ mental health, in relation to their migration history and resettlement conditions. The mental health of 883 refugee and 483 non-refugee migrants (mean age 15.41, range 11-24, 45.9% girls, average length of stay in the host country 3.75 years) in five European countries was studied in their relation to family separation, daily material stress and perceived discrimination in resettlement. All participants reported high levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms. Family separation predicted post-trauma and internalizing behavioral difficulties only in refugees. Daily material stress related to lower levels of overall well-being in all participants, and higher levels of internalizing and externalizing behavioral difficulties in refugees. Perceived discrimination was associated with increased levels of mental health problems for refugees and non-refugee migrants. The relationship between perceived discrimination and post-traumatic stress symptoms in non-refugee migrants, together with the high levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms in this subsample, raises important questions on the nature of trauma exposure in non-refugee migrants, as well as the ways in which experiences of discrimination may interact with other traumatic stressors in predicting mental health.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Youth and Adolescence
Pages (from-to)848–870
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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