Unfortunately, trauma-related behavioral disturbances resembling rule-breaking and aggression, are often overlooked or mischaracterized in the newcomer Latinx immigrant youth population. Left unaddressed, trauma-related behavioral disturbances can set youth down a pernicious trajectory leading to school expulsion, arrest, and juvenile justice involvement. Culturally-incongruent screening tools, limited clinical knowledge, and other barriers impede the accurate and timely identification of trauma-related symptoms in this population. This study aims to improve understanding of the relationship between trauma exposure and externalizing behaviors for newcomer Latinx immigrant youth.
Methods: The current study examines the relationship between accumulated exposure to different traumatic events and clinically significant externalizing symptoms from a subsample of newcomer Latinx immigrant youth (N=206). The data used was collected as part of the Pathways of Success Project (PSP), a larger longitudinal study examining risk and protective factors of newcomer immigrant youth. Only participants from Latin American countries of origin and/or self-identifying as Latinx/Hispanic were included in the current sample. Self-report measures were used to assess externalizing behaviors (YSR externalizing scale, aggression and rule-breaking subscales) and refugee-related traumatic events (HTQ-R part 1).
Results: Regression analyses will be used to assess the relationship between accumulated exposure to refugee-related traumatic events and two types of externalizing behavior, aggression and rule-breaking. Clinical significance will be determined by preestablished T-score cut-points. Poisson regression models will be used to examine how number of traumatic events is associated with changes in clinical significance.
Conclusions: The results emphasize the importance of understanding externalizing behaviors in the context of traumatic exposures. Early and accurate identification of trauma and mental health needs offer clinicians an opportunity to offset negative trajectories and improve overall outcomes for newcomer Latinx immigrant youth. Findings can also inform current systems practices to better address these behaviors in newcomer Latinx immigrant youth.