Methods: This mixed-methods study seeks to assess the mental health of foreign-born adolescents from Arab-majority countries (aged 13-21 years) in school-based settings in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Austin, Texas, Detroit, Michigan, and Chicago, Illinois, and to locate the sources of stress and support mechanisms within schools. We conduct a survey with a stratified sample of adolescent students in public high schools, with foreign-born students from Arab-majority countries students being oversampled. Outcomes measured in the survey questionnaire include hope, resilience, depressive, anxiety, and externalizing symptoms, perceived social support, and perceived sense of school belonging. Student records containing information on attendance and disciplinary events were also assessed. We also conduct in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with purposive samples of community key informants, foreign-born adolescents, and foreign-born parents. Multiple streams of qualitative inquiry were guided by thematic analysis.
Results: Quantitative analysis is still underway. Qualitative findings identify several means by which various actors work together to support resettled adolescents. Promising efforts found to enhance these supports include sheltered instruction, school-parent collaboration, peer support programming, social and emotional learning initiatives, and integrated mental health centers. Findings also show that upon resettlement, education remains highly valued for resettled families. While addressing challenges associated with their newcomer status, parents reported simultaneously providing support to their children’s academic success. A final stream of thematic analysis identifies the ways in which acculturative experiences reinforce or challenge gender norms for MENA boys and girls.
Conclusions: While this study underscores the resilience of newcomers and the value of local support systems, it also reflects the importance of investment in schools, mental health systems, and resettlement programs that can enable newcomers to achieve their full potential. We offer suggestions on how schools and organizations can foster the mental health and psychosocial well-being of resettled adolescents as well as how they can bolster parents’ ability to support their children’s education.