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Thriving, Managing, and Struggling: A Mixed Methods Study of Adolescent African Refugees’ Psychosocial Adjustment

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Objectives: The purpose of this mixed method study was to characterize the patterns of psychosocial adjustment among adolescent African refugees in U.S. resettlement.

Methods: A purposive sample of 73 recently resettled refugee adolescents from Burundi and Liberia were followed for two years and qualitative and quantitative data was analyzed using a mixed methods exploratory design.

Results: Protective resources identified were the family and community capacities that can promote youth psychosocial adjustment through: 1) Finances for necessities; 2) English proficiency; 3) Social support networks; 4) Engaged parenting; 5) Family cohesion; 6) Cultural adherence and guidance; 7) Educational support; and, 8) Faith and religious involvement.

The researchers first inductively identified 19 thriving, 29 managing, and 25 struggling youths based on review of cases. Univariate analyses then indicated significant associations with country of origin, parental education, and parental employment. Multiple regressions indicated that better psychosocial adjustment was associated with Liberians and living with both parents. Logistic regressions showed that thriving was associated with Liberians and higher parental education, managing with more parental education, and struggling with Burundians and living parents. Qualitative analysis identified how these factors were proxy indicators for protective resources in families and communities.

Conclusion: These three trajectories of psychosocial adjustment and six domains of protective resources could assist in developing targeted prevention programs and policies for refugee youth. Further rigorous longitudinal mixed-methods study of adolescent refugees in U.S. resettlement are needed.
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Keywords: African; adjustment; adolescents; protective resources; psychosocial; refugee

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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  • Adolescent Psychiatry publishes reports of original research, critical reviews of topics relevant to practitioners, clinical observations with analysis and discussion, analysis of philosophical, ethical or social aspects of the fields of psychiatry and mental health, case reports with discussions, letters, and position papers. Adolescent Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal, and the official journal of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, aims to provide mental health professionals who work with adolescents with current information relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders in adolescence.
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