Social context factors and refugee children’s emotional health
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BackgroundRefugee children face numerous challenges associated with pre-migration trauma and post-migration adaptation. Much research pertaining to refugee children's well-being focuses on psychiatric symptoms. Relatively few studies have examined how social context factors-such as perceptions of peer belonging, and support from adults at home and at school-contribute to the emotional health of refugee children. Informed by social-ecological theories emphasizing dynamic interactions between the contexts in which children develop, we examined associations between social context factors and emotional health in refugee children.
MethodsData were drawn from a population-based data linkage in British Columbia, Canada. The analytic sample included 682 grade 4 students (Mage 9.2 years; 46.3% female) with a refugee background who responded to the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) during the 2010/2011-2016/2017 school years. The MDI is a self-report survey of children's social and emotional competencies and social context factors completed at school. Regression analyses were used to examine associations of social context factors (school climate, supportive adults at school and at home, and peer belonging) with indicators of emotional health (life satisfaction, self-concept, optimism, and sadness). Refugee generation status (first/second) was considered through stratification and testing of interactions with social context factors.
ResultsPerceived supportive school climate, support from adults in school and at home, and peer belonging were each independently associated with better emotional health. Results were similar for first- and second-generation children.
ConclusionTaken together, results suggest a unique role of the school context to refugee children's emotional health. School-based programming that promotes positive school climate can be considered as an important approach to support newcomer refugee children and their families.
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