Coping abilities and social support of Myanmar teenage refugees in Malaysia

Author(s): Jin Kuan KOK ; Mah Ngee LEE ; Sew Kim LOW


A high number of Myanmar refugees in Malaysia fled their home countries due to political turmoil. Officially, more than 33,000 of them are children below the age of 18. Psychological distress for teenage refugees was reported, but the study of coping abilities and social support employed by teenage refugees is lacking. We have used a concurrent mixed method approach to collect data from 115 Myanmar adolescent refugees from six different education centres around Klang Valley in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Adolescent Coping Scale and the Social Support Measure were used to measure coping abilities and social support of the teenage refugees. Two open-ended questions and a focus group interview were designed to collect qualitative data from the research participants. Results showed that subscales Non-Productive Coping were significantly correlated with Social Support Measure at p < .01. Findings from the qualitative analysis revealed that financial, social and academic were the three main challenges. The coping strategies used by the participants were problem-focused, avoidance and social support. Our participants also utilized personal conviction such as religion and cultural values as coping strategies. Social support is a much needed aspect which could further enhance their coping abilities.

KEYWORDS: RefugeeMyanmarcoping abilitiessocial supportMalaysia

Tags: Myanmar, Malaysia, Refugees, Adolescents, Social support, Coping strategies

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