European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 373–380 | Cite as

PTSD and depression in refugee children

Associations with pre-migration trauma and post-migration stress


This paper describes the effect of pre-migration and post-migration experiences on the mental health of a sample of 40 refugee children aged 8–16 who lived in London with at least one parent or a refugee relative. Children’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression symptoms were assessed with standardised self-report measures (Impact of Event Scale and Depression Self-Rating Scale for Children, respectively). Information regarding past and present experiences were gathered during an interview with parents. There was a significant correlation between the number of pre-migration traumas experienced by the families and the children’s PTSD scores. There was also a significant correlation between the families’ number of post-migration stresses and children’s depression scores. Higher PTSD scores were significantly associated with the pre-migration experience of violent death of family members and the post-migration experience of an insecure asylum status. Higher depression scores were significantly associated with insecure asylum status and severe financial difficulties. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

Key words

pre-migration experiences post-migration experiences PTSD depression 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Birleson P, Hudson I, Gray Buchanan D, Wolff S (1987) Clinical evaluation of a self-rating scale of depressive disorder in childhood (Depression Self-Rating Scale). J Child Psychol Psychiatry 28:43–60Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Carlson EB, Rosser-Hogan R (1991) Trauma experiences, posttraumatic stress, dissociation and depression in Cambodian refugees. Am J Psychiatry 148:1548–1551Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Dyregrov A, Kuterovac G, Barath A (1996) Factor analysis of the Impact of Event Scale with children in war. Scand J Psychol 37:339–350Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Goldstein R, Wampler N, Wise P (1997) War experiences and distress symptoms of Bosnian children. Pediatrics 100:873–878Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hauff E, Vaglum P (1994) Chronic posttraumatic stress disorder in Vietnamese refugees: a prospective community study of prevalence, course, psychopathology and stressors. J Nerv Ment Dis 181:113–122Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Horowitz M, Wilner N, Alvarez W (1979) Impact of Event Scale: a measure of subjective stress. Psychosom Med 41:209–218PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Macksoud M, Aber L (1996) The war experiences and psychological development of children in Lebanon. Child Dev 67:70–88Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Mollica R, Poole C, Son L, Murray C, Tor S (1997) Effects of war trauma on Cambodian refugee adolescents functional health and mental health status. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 36:1098–1106Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Moore LJ, Boehnlein JK (1991) Post traumatic stress disorder, depression and somatic symptoms in US Mien patients. J Nerv Ment Dis 179:728–733PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Paardekooper B, De Jong J, Hermans J (1999) The psychological impact of war and the refugee situation on South Sudanese children in refugee camps in Northern Uganda. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 40:529–536Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Papageorgiou V, Frangou-Gurunovic A, Iordanidou R, Yule W, Smith P, Vostanis P (2000) War trauma and psychopathology in Bosnian refugee children. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 9:84–90Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Pernice R, Brook J (1994) Relationship of migrant status (refugee or immigrant) to mental health. International J Soc Psychiatry 40:177–188Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Sack WH, Clarke G, Seeley J (1996) Multiple forms of stress in Cambodian adolescent refugees. Child Dev 67:107–116Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Sack WH, McSharry S, Clarke GN, Kinney R, Seeley J, Lewinsohn P (1994) The Khmer adolescent project. I: Epidemiological findings in two generations of Cambodian refugees. J Nerv Ment Dis 182:387–395Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Savin D, Sack WH, Clarke GN, Meas N, Richart I (1996) The Khmer adolescent project. III. A study of trauma from Thailand’s Site II refugee camp. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 35:384–391Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Servan-Schreiber D, Le Lin B, Birmaher B (1998) Prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder in Tibetan refugee children. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 37:874–879Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Silove D, McIntosh P, Becker R (1993) Risk of retraumatisation of asylum-seekers in Australia. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 27:606–612Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Silove D, Sinnerbrink I, Field A, Manicavasagar V, Steel Z (1997) Anxiety, depression and PTSD in asylum-seekers: associations with pre-migration trauma and post-migration stressors. Br J Psychiatry 170:351–357Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Sinnerbrink I, Silove D, Field A, Steel Z, Manicavasgar V (1997) Compounding of premigration trauma and postmigration stress in asylum seekers. J Psychology 131:463–470Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Thabet AA, Vostanis P (1998) Social adversities and anxiety disorders in the Gaza strip. Arch Dis Childhood 78:439–442Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Tousignant M, Habimana E, Biron C, Malo C, Sidoli-Le Blanc E, Bendris N (1999) The Quebec adolescent refugee project: Psychopathology and family variables in a sample from 35 nations. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 38:1426–1432Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Van Velsen C, Gorst-Unworth C, Turner S (1996) Survivors of torture and organized violence: demography and diagnosis. J Traum Stress 9:181–193Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Weine S, Becker D, McGlashan T, Vojvoda D, Hartman S, Robbins J (1995) Adolescent survivors of “ethnic cleansing”: Observations on the first year in America. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 34:1153–1159Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen Heptinstall
    • 1
  • Vaheshta Sethna
    • 2
  • Eric Taylor
    • 1
  1. 1.Dept. of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryInstitute of Psychiatry (King’s College London)London SE5 8AFUK
  2. 2.Centre for Social, Genetic and Developmental PsychiatryInstitute of Psychiatry (King’s College London)London SE5 8AFUK

Personalised recommendations