Date of Award
Master of Public Health (MPH)
School of Public Health
Background: Mental health difficulties disproportionately impact resettled refugee children (RRC). Little is known regarding the impact between COVID-19 and RRC mental health. A mixed-methods retrospective pilot study was conducted to examine the impact of COVID-19 on RRC mental health.
Methods: Families were recruited in partnership with Elena’s Light, a refugee resettlement community-stakeholder. Participants included 20 RRC (N=11 ages 4-11; N=9 ages 11-15; equal gender distribution) from 10 families (N=6 Afghanistan; N=1 Turkey; N=1 Syria; N=2 non-disclosed) resettled to New Haven, CT before March 2019. Pre-Covid (PC) and During-Covid (DC) maternal responses for three Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) dimensions (Emotional, Conduct, Hyperactivity) and semi-structured interviews questions were collected virtually with interpretation. Seven families (N=14 RCC) experienced loss of employment during COVID-19; three families contracted COVID-19 (N= 3 RCC). Paired t-test comparing PC-to-DC SDQ ratings were calculated. Secondary analysis characterized PC-DC symptom severity (SDQ Band Categories (SDQ-BC)) for comparison against the 2019 US National Interview Survey (NHIS).
Results: Maternal reports indicated increases in child symptoms across all SDQ dimensions(p<0.001). PC-RRC scores mirrored NHIS SDQ-BC “close-to-average” trends: Emotional N=19 (95%); Conduct N= 16 (80%); Hyperactive N=19 (95%). DC-RRC scores significantly differed from NHIS trends, even after controlling for similar RRC-demographics (p<0.005); DC-RRC more readily presented with “High” or “Very-High” symptoms: Emotional N=13 (65%); Conduct N=11 (55%); Hyperactive N=10 (50%). Qualitative interview findings suggest noticeable RRC weight changes and a decrease in child-willingness to socialize and engage in extracurricular activities.
Conclusion: Preliminary, findings from this pilot study suggest that COVID-19 has negatively impacted RRC mental health in New Haven County, Connecticut.
Williams, Joseph Lawsel, "Impact Of Covid-19 On The Mental Health Of Resettled Refugee Children" (2022). Public Health Theses. 2211.