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

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Abstract

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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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    If Roma people have previously lived in EU countries, they are not classified as refugees or asylum seekers in Germany. According to the UNHCR, however, ‘a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence’ [16]. Roma from eastern European countries suffer from ethnic discrimination [12] and their risk of being poor is higher than that of refugees living in the same countries [17]. Therefore, in line with other studies (for example [18]), we define Roma people as refugees regardless of whether they come from EU or non-EU countries such as Serbia.

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Acknowledgements

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.

Ethical Approval

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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Keywords

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