Language Acquisition in Relation to Cumulative Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Load over Time in a Sample of Resettled RefugeesSöndergaard H.P. · Theorell T.
National Swedish Institute for Psychosocial Factors and Health, IPM, Stockholm, Sweden
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Objective: To study the effects of symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and dissociation as well as cumulative symptom load on language learning during the introduction phase in resettled refugees. Method: Participants were resettled refugees of Iraqi origin. They were assessed by means of a structured interview for PTSD at baseline as well as self-rating questionnaires. Language acquisition was studied by means of register data from the school system. Five levels of language proficiency were recorded. Self-reported symptom scores for PTSD, depression and dissociation (Impact of Events Scale-22, Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25, Dissociative Experiences Scale) were measured at four time points during 9 months immediately after resettlement. In 49 participants in a longitudinal study, data regarding progress in language studies were accessible. Results: The results of the study indicate that the speed of language acquisition – the number of levels taken during the study, adjusted to hours of school presence – is related to the cumulative PTSD symptom load over time (Events Scale-22), but is not related neither to the symptom load of depression and dissociation, nor to the number of previous school years. Conclusion: The study shows that the symptom load of PTSD during the follow-up period is significantly inversely related to the speed of language acquisition in refugees. This implies that treatment as well as preventive measures against worsening of PTSD symptoms are important in order to minimise harmful post-migration stress for the facilitation of integration.
© 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel
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