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J Adolesc Health. 2004 Jul;35(1):17-25.

Trauma and coping in Somali and Oromo refugee youth.

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1
School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 55455, USA. halco001@umn.edu

Abstract

PURPOSE:

To describe war-related trauma history, immigration factors, problems, and coping of Somali and Oromo refugee youth.

METHODS:

Analysis of a subset of participants (N = 338) aged 18-25 years from a population-based survey of Somali and Oromo refugees conducted in 2000-2002. Data included trauma history, life situation, and scales for physical (Cronbach alpha =.69), psychological (alpha =.56), and social problems (alpha =.69). Data were analyzed using Chi-square and Mann-Whitney U tests.

RESULTS:

Average emigration age was 14.8 years, with 4.2 years in transit and 2.0 years in the United States; 60% reported plans to return home to live. Two-thirds (66%) had less than a high school education, 49% had English language problems, 49% were employed (38% female vs. 57% male); 70% were single, with Somali females more likely than Oromo to be partnered and mothers (39% vs. 19%). There were significant ethnicity/gender differences for all problem scales. More females reported feeling alone (24% vs. 61%, p <.001). Youth with symptoms of posttraumatic stress syndrome reported more traumatic events (mean number of events: 28 vs.16). Trauma history was strongly associated with physical, psychological, and social problems. Most frequent strategies to combat sadness were praying (55.3%), sleeping (39.9%), reading (32.3%), and talking to friends (27.8%).

CONCLUSIONS:

Many young Somali and Oromo immigrants to the United States experience life problems associated with war trauma and torture, but many others are coping well. The findings suggest a need to develop age-appropriate strategies to promote the health of refugee youth to facilitate their successful adaptation to adult life in the United States.

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