Mental Health and Academic Skills of Sierra Leonean Children from Refugee Families

Michael Feder

Advisor: Adam Winsler, PhD, Department of Psychology

The Hub, 4
April 03, 2005, 08:00 PM to 07:00 PM


There is little information about the psychological and academic adjustment of children from refugee families in the U.S. Yet, it seems clear that refugee children and children born in the U.S. to refugee parents are at risk for developing psychological and academic difficulties (Berman, 2001). This study examines the psychological adjustment of children from refugee families from Sierra Leone (S.L.), a country in Western Africa whose refugee population in the U.S. has yet to be the focus of empirical research. Seventy-four children (51 born in S.L.) and a parent/guardian completed surveys assessing demographic information and trauma exposure. Also, all children completed paper and pencil measures of attributional style, psychological functioning, and academic ability. Children reported being exposed to more war-related traumatic events for longer periods of time than their parents. While many children displayed psychological adjustment, attribution style, and academic difficulties, differences between children born in S.L. and the U.S. were not apparent. Furthermore, attributional style, parental trauma exposure, and child trauma exposure were shown to predict Sierra Leonnean children?s psychological adjustment in the U.S. Findings from this study are described in terms of their implications for future research and child refugee resettlement policies.