Students with a refugee background are a vulnerable group in education. Adverse experiences and unsafe circumstances that they encounter prior, during and after their flight can place a great burden on their mental health and psychological well-being. Little is known about the psychological well-being of young refugee students in kindergarten and early years of primary school. The current study examined the psychological well-being of 4- to 8-year-old students with a refugee background residing in the Netherlands (n = 136), compared to Dutch peers without a refugee background (n = 406). Primary school teachers completed three questionnaires which assessed multiple indicators of their students’ psychological well-being: Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), Social-Emotional Questionnaire (SEV) and Risk and Protective factors Trauma Observation School Situations (RaPTOSS). In line with the hypothesis, results showed overall lower psychological well-being among refugee students compared to non-refugee students. Teachers observed more total difficulties in socio-emotional functioning, anxious and mood disturbing behavior, ADHD symptoms, problematic social behavior and post-traumatic stress symptoms (small effects), and less developed trauma protective factors and prosocial behavior (medium effects) among students with a refugee background compared to their non-refugee peers. However, the findings also demonstrated that half of the refugee students did not have any scores that fall in the clinical range of the psychological and behavioral problems assessed. The results underline the need to promote protective factors such as positive self-image, self-regulation skills, safety and relations in the classroom and prosocial behavior among students with a refugee background. © The Author(s) 2024.

DOI: 10.1007/s10578-024-01690-6
ISSN: 0009398X