Family environment and emotional and behavioural symptoms in adolescent Cambodian Refugees: influence of time, gender, and acculturation.

  • Rousseau C
  • Drapeau A
  • Platt R
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For young refugees, the turmoil of adolescence is exacerbated by the acculturation process that sometimes places them at odds with the traditional culture of their ethnic group. The family environment can affect how adolescents cross that pivotal period. This paper focuses on the influence of family environment, gender and acculturation on the mental health of young refugees from early to mid-adolescence. Sixty-seven Cambodian adolescents were followed up from early to mid-adolescence. The effects of the youths' acculturation level, gender, and family environment and structure on internalising and externalising symptoms were analysed through linear regression analyses. Family conflict tends to increase from early to mid-adolescence. The association between family environment and mental health changes over time and, overall, family environment is associated with externalisation whereas gender, acculturation level, and family structure influence internalisation. Cambodian girls and boys cope differently with the challenges of adolescence in the host country, adopting traditional strategies and borrowing new ones from the host culture. Family therapy may help the parents and their adolescents address this process of change, which is both a source of vulnerability and of fulfilment, and enhances the ability of the family to negotiate between the cultural worlds of the home and of the host countries.

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