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The Impact of Refugee Mothers’ Trauma, Posttraumatic Stress, and Depression on Their Children’s Adjustment

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Abstract

The mechanisms linking refugee parents’ trauma onto their children’s functioning are not well understood. The current study sought to identify how Somali refugee mothers’ past trauma and current mental health impact their children’s psychosocial adjustment. One hundred and ninety-eight Somali mothers (M age = 39 years) and their children (M age = 10 years; 56% male) were studied. On average, mothers spent 7 years in refugee camps, experienced significant trauma, and some had been tortured. Measures of mothers’ posttraumatic stress and depression were analyzed as three symptom clusters: volatility/panic, withdrawn/detached, and depressed mood. Most children were born in the U.S. and their indirect exposure to trauma was statistically controlled. Results from structural equation modeling indicated that there was no direct association between trauma of the mother and their children’s well-being, however, mothers’ posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms significantly mediated the effects of mothers’ past torture on their children’s adjustment—a pattern indicative of intergenerational traumatization. Findings enhance our understanding of how refugees’ traumatization lingers and possibly affects their and their children’s health and well-being.

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Funding

Funding associated with the conduct of this research was provided by pilot funding from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California San Diego for data collection and participant compensation purposes.

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Correspondence to Patricia L. East.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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There were human subjects involved in this research. All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the authors’ institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The University of California San Diego Human Subjects Committee approved the study.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

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East, P.L., Gahagan, S. & Al-Delaimy, W.K. The Impact of Refugee Mothers’ Trauma, Posttraumatic Stress, and Depression on Their Children’s Adjustment. J Immigrant Minority Health 20, 271–282 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-017-0624-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-017-0624-2

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