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Emotional and behavioural problems in migrant adolescents in Belgium

Abstract

Refugee and migrant adolsescents may be at increased risk for the development of emotional and behavioural problems. Since studies on this topic are rather scarce and results inconsistent, this large-scale screening study aims at investigating the prevalence of emotional and behavioural problems in recently arrived migrant adolescents in Belgium, compared to Belgian peers. About 1,249 migrant adolescents and 602 Belgian adolescents filled in four self-report questionnaires on the prevalence of emotional and behavioural problems, traumatic experiences and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Migrant adolescents experienced more traumatic events than their Belgian peers, and show higher levels of peer problems and avoidance symptoms. On the contrary, non-migrant adolescents reveal more symptoms of anxiety, externalising problems and hyperactivity. Factors influencing the prevalence of emotional and behavioural problems are the number of traumatic events experienced, gender and the living situation. Although migrant and non-migrant adolescents don’t differ much in the prevalence of emotional and behavioural symptoms, attention should be given to the screening and support of risk groups within the population of migrant adolescents, such as girls, those who experienced a lot of traumatic events and unaccompanied refugee children and adolescents.

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Acknowledgements

We thank all participating adolescents and schools. This study was supported by a PhD Bursary of the Special Research Fund of Ghent University.

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Correspondence to Ilse Derluyn PhD.

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Derluyn, I., Broekaert, E. & Schuyten, G. Emotional and behavioural problems in migrant adolescents in Belgium. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 17, 54–62 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-007-0636-x

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Keywords

  • refugee adolescents
  • migrant adolescents
  • emotional problems
  • prevalence study