Mental Health Needs of Refugee Children in Specialized Early Education and Care Programs in Germany

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Refugee children are at risk to develop mental health problems, which have rarely been investigated in educational contexts. We conducted three studies in childcare programs for refugees in Germany. Children’s behavior was assessed by educators on site (n = 84) and online (n = 50) using a two-stage-cluster sampling and on site (n = 107) using complete samples. In Study 1 and 2, children showed elevated attention problems ranging from medium to large effect sizes, r = 0.2 and r = 0.5, respectively, and aggressive behavior problems ranging from small to large effect sizes, r = 0.1 and r = 0.5, respectively, when compared to norm data. In Study 3, children showed elevated peer-problems, r = 0.5. Future research needs to investigate whether these problems are a consequence of adapting to a novel context or a precursor of a psychopathology caused by risk factors in the context of forced displacement.

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The study was funded by the Ministry for Children, Families, Refugees and Integration of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (Ministerium für Kinder, Familie, Flüchtlinge und Integration des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen) and by the educational trust RuhrFutur (Bildungsinitiative RuhrFutur).

Author information

T.B. contributed to the study by conceptualization, data collection, data analysis and interpretation and by drafting the article. H.L. contributed by drafting parts of the manuscript, by data analysis and interpretation of the article. F.I. contributed by drafting parts of the manuscript and by data collection. J.B. contributed by conceptualizing the study. B.L. contributed in supervising the project. All authors provided critical feedback on the manuscript and gave their final approval of the version to be published.

Correspondence to Thimo Buchmüller.

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We declare that we have no conflict of interest.

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All studies were approved by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Psychology of the Ruhr University Bochum.

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Buchmüller, T., Lembcke, H., Ialuna, F. et al. Mental Health Needs of Refugee Children in Specialized Early Education and Care Programs in Germany. J Immigrant Minority Health 22, 22–33 (2020) doi:10.1007/s10903-019-00896-4

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  • Refugee children
  • Early education and care
  • Mental health
  • C-TRF
  • SDQ