Resilience of Refugee Children After War
Executive Summary of the Report of the APA Task Force on the Psychosocial Effects of War on Children and Families Who Are Refugees From Armed Conflict Residing in the United States


In the ongoing contentious debate surrounding immigration, the lives and experiences of resettled refugees are often an afterthought. War and armed conflict affect millions of people around the world each year, tens of thousands of whom flee their home countries for the U.S. 

Resilience and Recovery after War: Refugee Children and Families in the United States, a recent task force report from the American Psychological Association:

  • reviews the research on the psychosocial effects of war, 

  • identifies areas of needed culturally and developmentally appropriate research, and

  • provides recommendations for culturally and developmentally informed practice and programs.

The report is the product of the APA Task Force on the Psychosocial Effects of War on Children and Families Who are Refugees from Armed Conflict Residing in the United States. Images featured in this report are from the AjA Project, a nonprofit organization that utilizes photography-based educational programs to transform the lives of refugee and displaced youth by getting them to see themselves as agents of personal and social transformation.

Psychology is beginning to understand the full impact of armed conflict, displacement, and resettlement on children’s development and overall well-being. However, despite the mental health risks of the unimaginable hardship and trauma associated with war, there is evidence to suggest that war-affected children demonstrate tremendous resilience. 
Psychologists and other mental health professionals can assist refugee children and their families with recovery by:

  • Recognizing and understanding the factors involved in psychosocial adjustment following war and violence 

  • Providing comprehensive mental health services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate 

  • Partnering with members of the refugee community in performing research, advocacy, and mental health care

  • Adhering to strong ethical standards in the research, practice, and advocacy to protect human rights of refugee communities 

The treatment needs of refugee populations resettled in America are complex and diverse. Consequently, psychologists and other mental health providers must provide comprehensive services that are culturally competent and that integrate evidence-based practice with practice-based evidence. Sample vignettes in the report bring to life scenarios that war affected children and families face everyday. Each vignette is followed by a mental health care principle that takes theory and puts it into practice.
Researchers must utilize a wide range of methodologies to identify and understand cultural variations in well-being and distress and instill ethical considerations of the power disparities and vulnerabilities that exist for refugee populations in the conduct of their work. The report concludes with recommendations for advancing services and supports, the research and knowledge base, and education and training opportunities for refugee children and families.