This study examined the mental health of Middle Eastern male unaccompanied refugee adolescents in Germany in relation to the mental health of accompanied refugee peers, first- and second-generation immigrant and native peers. In particular, it was investigated whether differences in the mental health of unaccompanied and accompanied refugees and immigrant peers were related to differences in the perception of post-migration stress, and whether this association changed with different acculturation orientations.
In a cross-sectional study, 193 adolescents (Mage = 18.1 years, SD = 1.74 years; nrefugees = 74, nmigrants = 59, nnatives = 60) completed self-report measures of mental health, trauma, acculturation styles, and post-migration stress.
Analyses of variance revealed that unaccompanied refugees suffered most from internalizing and trauma symptoms, while accompanied peers, first- and second-generation immigrant and native adolescents did not differ significantly in internalizing symptoms. Hierarchical regression analysis demonstrated that more integrated adolescents were generally associated with lower internalizing symptoms and integration also buffered against detrimental effects of post-migration stressors. Marginalized adolescents showed more internalizing symptoms, especially in the lights of more post-migration stress. Both assimilation and separation had no direct effects on internalizing symptoms. However, assimilation buffered against detrimental effects of post-migration stress on internalizing symptoms, whereas separation amplified these effects.
An involvement in host society and an orientation towards the host culture fosters mental health of acculturating Middle Eastern adolescents in Germany when post-migration stress is perceived, particularly for unaccompanied refugee adolescents. Moreover, additionally maintaining the culture of origin seems to be in general most beneficial.