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Child Abuse Negl. 1998 Jul;22(7):719-27.

Behavior problems and traumatic events of unaccompanied refugee minors.

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Department of Child Psychiatry, Turku University Hospital, Finland.



The present study examined the traumatic events and behavior symptoms of 46 unaccompanied refugee minors waiting for placement in an asylum center in Finland.


Using all the clinical information available information about the refugee children's experiences before and during their flight and after their arrival in Finland was gathered. Children were evaluated with the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).


The refugee children had experienced a number of losses, separations, persecution, and threats. About half of the minors were functioning within clinical or borderline range when evaluated with the CBCL. Young age (< 15 years) was associated with more severe psychiatric problems. There was a lack of rehabilitative services, the staff ratio was very low and the time spent in the asylum center waiting for the placement decision was relatively long for these minors.


Unaccompanied refugee minors are in a highly vulnerable situation. Younger refugee children are more vulnerable to emotional distress than older children. Current procedures for dealing with asylum-seekers may contribute to high level of stress and emotional symptoms in previously traumatized refugee children. A high level of social security and mental health care does not guarantee an appropriate level of care for unaccompanied refugee children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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