Improving Mental Health Outcomes of Burmese Migrant and Displaced Children in Thailand: a Community-Based Randomized Controlled Trial of a Parenting and Family Skills Intervention


The negative effects of displacement and poverty on child mental health are well-known, yet research on prevention interventions in low- and middle-income countries, especially fragile states, remains limited. We examined the effectiveness of a parenting skills intervention on mental health outcomes among Burmese migrant and displaced children living in 20 communities in Thailand. Participants were primary caregivers and children aged 7 to 15 years (n = 479 families). Families were randomly assigned to receive an adapted version of the Strengthening Families Program (n = 240) or a wait-list control condition (n = 239). Assessments were conducted at baseline and 1-month post-intervention for both conditions and at 6 months for treatment group only. One month after the program, children in the treatment condition showed significant reductions in externalizing problems (caregiver effect size (ES) −0.22, p = 0.02; child report ES −0.11, p = 0.02) and child attention problems compared with controls (caregiver report ES −0.23, p = 0.03). There was no significant treatment effect on children’s internalizing problems (ES −0.06; p = 0.31). Children reported a significant increase in prosocial protective factors relative to controls (ES 0.20, p < 0.01). Results suggest that an evidence-based parenting skills intervention adapted for a displaced and migrant Burmese population facing high levels of adversity can have positive effects on children’s externalizing symptoms and protective psychosocial factors.

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Correspondence to Jeannie Annan.

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USAID Displaced Children and Orphans Fund.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

All participants provided informed consent to participate in the study. Consent was first obtained from the parent or caregiver, followed by assent from the child separately.

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Annan, J., Sim, A., Puffer, E.S. et al. Improving Mental Health Outcomes of Burmese Migrant and Displaced Children in Thailand: a Community-Based Randomized Controlled Trial of a Parenting and Family Skills Intervention. Prev Sci 18, 793–803 (2017).

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  • Parenting
  • Mental health
  • Low and middle income countries
  • Migrants
  • Displacement
  • Myanmar