Psychological Injury and Law

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 358–367 | Cite as

Standard Symptom Inventories for Asylum Seekers in a Psychiatric Hospital: Limited Utility Due to Poor Symptom Validity

  • Douwe van der Heide
  • Irena Boskovic
  • Harald Merckelbach


We examined symptom validity in two samples (Ns = 27 and 35) of asylum seekers who had been admitted to a psychiatric facility. Considerable proportions over-endorsed atypical symptoms (63 and 83%, respectively) and underperformed on a simple forced-choice task requiring the identification of basic emotions (41 and 71%, respectively). Over-endorsement and underperformance were unrelated to Dutch language proficiency but were related to raised scores on standard symptom inventories commonly used to assess psychiatric symptoms of asylum seekers. This pattern of findings casts doubts on attempts to monitor symptom severity and treatment progress in psychiatric asylum seekers without taking symptom validity into account.


Refugees Asylum seekers Symptom validity tests Symptom over-reporting Underperformance 



The authors would like to thank Hanneke Bot, current head of the clinical facility where this study took place, for her review of the concept version of this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

This project received no financial support from outside funding agencies. The authors have no disclosures to make that could be interpreted as conflict of interests.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

Relevant ethical guidelines regulating research involving human participants were followed throughout the project. All data collection, storage, and processing was done in compliance with the Helsinki Declaration.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Phoenix, ProPersonaWolfhezeThe Netherlands
  2. 2.GGZ CentraalErmeloThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Forensic Psychology SectionMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  4. 4.University of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

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