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

Abstract

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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Funding

USAID Displaced Children and Orphans Fund.

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The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

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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.

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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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-016-0728-2

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Keywords

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