The Effects of State Terrorism and Exile on Indigenous Guatemalan Refugee Children: A Mental Health Assessment and an Analysis of Children’s Narratives

This study examined the mental health and psychosocial development of 58 Guatemalan Mayan Indian children living in 2 refugee camps in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Conventional assessment instruments were adapted for use in this unique context, and semistructured interviews were utilized to gather phenomenological data from children regarding various developmental, sociocultural, and political topics. Data are presented that show minimal evidence of psychological trauma in this sample, and various factors are suggested to account for this finding. In addition, data are presented showing a positive relationship between children’s mental health and the health status (physical and mental) of their mothers. In particular, a strong association was found between depressive symptomatology in girls and poor health status in their mothers. Qualitative data from the interviews are presented, focusing on children’s understandings of why their families fled Guatemala, the nature and causes of the violence, and their thoughts and feelings regarding the prospect of returning to Guatemala at some future point.

Download the handbook by clicking on the button below. Arabic and Spanish versions will be available soon.