War-exposed newcomer adolescent immigrants facing daily life stressors in the United States

Author(s): Sita G. PATEL ; Anna H. STAUDENMEYER ; Robert WICKHAM ; William M. FIRMENDER ; Laurie FIELDS ; Alisa B. MILLER



For adolescents new to the United States, the experience of war and acculturative stressors may play complex roles during early stages of adjustment to a new culture and country. The overall purpose of this study was to deepen understanding of the experiences of adolescents who are new to the United States, also called “newcomers”, through the examination of pre-migration war exposure and post-migration acculturative stressors as predictors of psychosocial adjustment and academic achievement. The study sample included newcomer immigrant and refugee youth (N = 184) with an average of 3.5 years in the United States. Triangulated data were collected from youth, teachers, and official school records. Results indicated that the participants who were exposed to war (N = 57) experienced more self-reported and teacher-reported anxiety, more self-reported conduct problems, and had lower academic achievement than participants who had not been exposed to war. Acculturative stressors also predicted more self-reported anxiety, conduct problems, and lower academic achievement, but only for those adolescents without war exposure, suggesting that exposure to traumatic events like war may change newcomer adolescents’ response to acculturative stressors. This may be related to the development of coping or growth that follows after trauma, which enable youth to navigate other life challenges. Understanding potential risk and resilience associated with war exposure among newly arrived students can assist clinicians, educators, and researchers in creating solutions to difficulties in psychosocial adjustment and academic performance.


Youth; Acculturative stress; War exposure; Academic achievement; Resiliency; Immigrant/refugee experience

Tags: United States, Refugees, Immigrants, Adolescents, Youth, War trauma, Armed conflict, Acculturative stress, Acculturation, Anxiety, Education, Academic achievement, Resilience

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