Child Psychiatry & Human Development

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 39–50 | Cite as

Personality and Psychopathology in African Unaccompanied Refugee Minors: Repression, Resilience and Vulnerability

  • Julia HuemerEmail author
  • Sabine Völkl-Kernstock
  • Niranjan Karnik
  • Katherine G. Denny
  • Elisabeth Granditsch
  • Michaela Mitterer
  • Keith Humphreys
  • Belinda Plattner
  • Max Friedrich
  • Richard J. Shaw
  • Hans Steiner
Original Article


Examining personality and psychopathological symptoms among unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs), we measured intra-individual dimensions (repression and correlates thereof) usually associated with resilience. Forty-one URMs completed the Weinberger Adjustment Inventory (WAI), assessing personality, and the Youth Self-Report (YSR), describing current symptoms. URMs endorsed high levels of Repressive Defensiveness, Denial of Distress, and Restraint; unexpectedly, URMs reported high Distress and reduced Happiness (WAI, p’s < 0.05). Although YSR symptoms were below clinical cut points, there were notable correlations between Distress and Attention Problems, Self-destructive, and Aggressive Behavior (all on the YSR), correcting for multiple comparisons (p’s < 0.004). URMs exposed to non-normative stressors reported non-symptomatic outcomes, and high levels of personality dimensions correlating with resilience. However, URMs also endorsed high Distress and low Happiness, calling their resilience into question. Positive correlations between WAI Distress and YSR symptom subscales suggest that URMs harbor vulnerabilities of clinical and forensic significance.


Repression Psychopathology Unaccompanied refugee minors Resilience 


Conflicts of interests

The authors report no conflicts of interests. The study’s implementation was enabled by a grant (Jubilaeumsfonds) from the Austrian National Bank to Sabine Völkl-Kernstock.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Huemer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sabine Völkl-Kernstock
    • 1
  • Niranjan Karnik
    • 2
  • Katherine G. Denny
    • 3
  • Elisabeth Granditsch
    • 6
  • Michaela Mitterer
    • 1
  • Keith Humphreys
    • 4
  • Belinda Plattner
    • 5
  • Max Friedrich
    • 1
  • Richard J. Shaw
    • 4
  • Hans Steiner
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryMedical University of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral NeuroscienceThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Clinical PsychologyUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Child Psychiatry and Child DevelopmentStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  5. 5.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Forensic Child and Adolescent PsychiatryUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  6. 6.Rohrbach HospitalRohrbachAustria

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