Stressful Life Events and Associations With Child and Family Emotional and Behavioral Well-Being in Diverse Immigrant and Refugee Populations

Jerica M. Berge, Samaria Mountain, Susan Telke, Amanda Trofholz, Katie Lingras, Roli Dwivedi, Lisa M Zak-Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Objective: Although stressful life events (SLEs) have been suggested to be associated with child well-being, few studies have examined SLEs with child and family behavioral and emotional well-being, especially within diverse populations. The current study examined the associations between SLEs and child behavioral and emotional outcomes, in addition to family-level measures of well-being. Method: Children 5-7 years old and their families (n = 150) from 6 racial and ethnic groups (n = 25 each for African American, Hispanic, Hmong, Native American, Somali, White families) participated in this mixed-methods study. Participants were recruited through primary care clinics. Results: Results showed that all racially and ethnically diverse immigrant and refugee families were experiencing SLEs. The majority of diverse children were experiencing emotional and behavioral problems (i.e., hyperactivity, emotional) in the face of SLEs (i.e., combined SLE score, health-related events), with Somali children being at highest risk. Additionally, the majority of diverse families did not experience lower family functioning in response the SLEs, except regarding certain SLEs (i.e., health-related, legal). However, specific families (i.e., Somali) experienced lower family functioning in the face of multiple SLEs. Discussion: Health care practitioners should consider screening and providing extra resources for reducing stress in children, given all children in the study had some emotional and behavioral problems in the face of SLEs. Additionally, it would be important for practitioners to know which families are at greatest risk for experiencing SLEs (i.e., African American, Native American, Somali families) to ensure they are provided with the resources necessary to mitigate the impact of SLEs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFamilies, Systems and Health
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Behavioral problems
  • Diverse families
  • Emotional well-being
  • Immigrants/refugees
  • Stressful life events

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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