Exploring intergenerational communication and stress in refugee families

Jennifer Simmelink McCleary, Patricia J. Shannon, Elizabeth Wieling, Emily Becher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


More than half of the refugees who have resettled to the United States in recent years have been youth. Refugee youth have often witnessed or experienced violence and family separation prior to resettlement and face barriers to successful resettlement such as language and educational challenges. These factors elevate risk for mental and emotional distress, and protective factors like strong familial relationships are important to promoting mental well-being. This study utilized focus groups with 36 refugees ages 18 to 25 from four ethnic groups to explore conceptualizations of and communication about mental and emotional distress within and outside of family systems. Youth reported a nuanced conceptualization of their premigration and postmigration stressors and their patterns of communication about distress in three domains: (a) exposure to traumatic stress prior to resettlement, (b) stressful experiences in resettlement, and (c) communication about mental health inside and outside of family groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-372
Number of pages9
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • intergenerational communication
  • refugee resettlement
  • refugee youth


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