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The Humanities Conference 2003

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The Mental Health of Displaced Children

Sophia Xenos, Trang Thomas.

There is a paucity of empirically based knowledge about the unique psychological needs and stressors of refugees and displaced persons during the period of resettlement. The vulnerability of children in particular has been overlooked in the literature. As a consequence, psychological and behavioural symptoms experienced during this period are often misdiagnosed

This paper will report on a study which investigated the psychological wellbeing of 50 displaced children in Australia. Information was collected on multiple risk factors experienced by these children, including role conflicts, refugee experiences, acculturation stress, and language and communication difficulties, and the importance of each of these factors on psychological wellbeing was investigated.

Questionnaire booklets were distributed to participants in addition to structured interviews in order to investigate immigration history, circumstances of flight, past lifestyle, stress symptoms, peer friendships, and self esteem, and coping. Implications regarding support services and adaptive strategies for displaced children are discussed.


Sophia Xenos  (Australia)
Lecturer in Psychology & Psychologist
Department of Psychology and Disability Studies
RMIT University

Sophia Xenos is a Psychology Lecturer, teaching undergraduate psychological theory and postgraduate clinical skills at RMIT University, and Victorian State coordinator for FRIENDS (Prevention of anxiety and depression) with non-English speaking background children and youth, through the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care. Dr. Xenos’ current research interests include the psychological well-being of displaced children, and providing skill-based programs for parents from diverse cultural backgrounds who are experiencing difficulties with their children.

Trang Thomas  (Australia)
Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology and Disability Studies
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Trang Thomas is a Professor of Psychology at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. Currently, she is a member of the Council for Multicultural Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council, and Assistant Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission. She has conducted numerous research projects into racism, women’s health, migrant older persons and refugee children.

  • Displaced children
  • Mental health
Person as Subject
  • Displaced children School children

(30 min Conference Paper, English)