Violence Exposure, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Depressive Symptoms Among Recent Immigrant Schoolchildren

Published in: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, v. 41, no. 9, Sep. 2002, p. 1104-1110

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2002

by Lisa H. Jaycox, Bradley D. Stein, Sheryl H. Kataoka, Marleen Wong, Arlene Fink, Pia Escudero, Catalina Zaragoza

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OBJECTIVE: Many recent immigrant children are at risk for violence exposure and related psychological distress resulting from experiences before, during, and after immigration. This study examines the rates of violence exposure and associated symptoms among recent immigrant children in Los Angeles. METHOD: 1,004 recent immigrant schoolchildren (aged 8-15 years) were surveyed about their prior exposure to violence and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Participants included children whose native language was Spanish, Korean, Russian, or Western Armenian. RESULTS: Participants reported high levels of violence exposure, both personal victimization and witnessing violence, in the previous year and in their lifetimes. Thirty-two percent of children reported PTSD symptoms in the clinical range, and 16% reported depressive symptoms in the clinical range. Although boys and older children were more likely to have experienced violence, girls reported more PTSD and depressive symptoms. Linear multiple regressions revealed that PTSD symptoms were predicted by both recent and lifetime violence exposure (p values <.001 and p <.05, respectively), when depressive symptoms and gender were controlled. On the other hand, depressive symptoms were predicted by recent victimization (p < .001) only when PTSD and gender were controlled. CONCLUSION: These findings document the need for interventions addressing the psychological sequelae of violence exposure in immigrant children.

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