Improving mental health and wellbeing in recently-arrived refugee families and children

Tsoupas, J 2011, Improving mental health and wellbeing in recently-arrived refugee families and children, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Health Sciences, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Improving mental health and wellbeing in recently-arrived refugee families and children
Author(s) Tsoupas, J
Year 2011
Abstract The devastating and traumatic experiences that refugees must endure can have a significant impact upon their mental health and wellbeing. However, a review of the literature reveals a paucity of research investigating the wellbeing of refugee families, refugee parenting practices and parenting needs in resettlement. In addition, very few early intervention or mental health prevention programs have been developed specifically for refugee children. Indeed, of those that have been developed, very few have undergone systematic evaluation for effectiveness.

Therefore, Study One aimed to extend the refugee parenting literature through the use of focus groups with recently-arrived refugee parents in order to explore the parenting strengths and challenges associated with raising a family in Melbourne. A total of 21 refugee mothers from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and the Sudan, with ages ranging from 22 to 43 years (M = 33.9, SD = 6.9) participated in Study One. Participants were recruited from playgroups and primary schools in Melbourne. Focus group discussions were analysed using thematic content analysis. Participants revealed much success and resilience in their parenting roles. However, they also reported three main parenting challenges related to; (a) the separation from their extended families and social supports; (b) difficulties with discipline and fears related to child protection; and (c) fears about Australian/Western influences and acculturation. The most salient suggestion for support provided by participants related to the expansion and promotion of family reunification programs. These results significantly contribute to the refugee parenting knowledge base. To the researcher’s knowledge, this study represents the first instance in which the positive aspects of refugee parenting have been explored and documented in detail, and represents the first instance in which parenting challenges have been explored in recently-arrived refugee parents to Melbourne. However, further research exploring the perspectives of refugee fathers, refugee parents from other cultural groups and locations across Australia are strongly recommended.

Study Two aimed to strengthen the evidence base of mental health prevention initiatives designed for refugee children by undertaking an evaluation of The Rainbow Program for Children in Refugee Families (VFST, 2002). A mixed qualitative and quantitative approach was adopted. The quantitative evaluation component utilised a quasi-experimental pre-post test design. Children were recruited from the Western English Language School, and a total of 21 refugee children from Africa and Asia, ranging in ages from 7 to 12 years (M = 10.6 years, SD = 1.4) participated. This evaluation revealed some interesting findings. Qualitative results indicated that the Rainbow Program displays very high social validity and makes a positive contribution to the settlement experiences of recently-arrived refugee children. However quantitative results of the program’s effects were non-significant when compared with the control group. It is highly recommended that future evaluations of the Rainbow program involve a larger sample size, a follow-up period of at least 12-months, and that the parent’s component be run concurrently with the children’s component. Finally, this study highlights the urgent need for the development of culturally sensitive, valid and reliable assessment measures of refugee children’s mental health.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Health Sciences
Keyword(s) Refugees
Mental Health Promotion
Mental Health Prevention
Focus Group
Intervention Evaluation
Parenting
Resilience
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Depression
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Created: Thu, 13 Sep 2012, 12:51:05 EST by Brett Fenton
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