Research Mentor Name

Dr. Arash Javanbakht

Research Mentor Email Address

Institution / Department

Psychiatry/ Wayne SOM/ STARC Lab

Document Type

Research Abstract

Research Type


Level of Research




Civilian war trauma and forced migration are among the most traumatic life experiences. There are approximately 36.4 million refugees worldwide; 40% are children. There is a paucity of mixed methods approaches that quantify properties of trauma narratives of refugee youth. This approach could assist in identifying individuals who could benefit from early clinical care.


Participants were 68 youth resettled as refugees of Syria in Southeast Michigan ages 7-17 (31F, Mage = 12.85), originally recruited from clinics during health screenings within one month of arrival in the United States. Those enrolled in this study consented to additional data collection and were assessed 1-2 years post-migration. Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count tools analyzed the narratives of youth’s experiences. Participants were asked to recall the overall most hurtful or terrifying event they had ever experienced, and then under their current living situation. Mixed methods approaches were employed to derive thematic elements from trauma narratives.


Pre-migration narratives consisted of violence and loss from experiences in both Syria and Jordan. The top three most frequent word categories were social references, perception, and spatial language. Post-migration narratives consisted of discrimination and bullying, namely at school and in communities. The top three most frequent word categories were social references, perception, and cognition.


Most social interactions children have are at school or school-related functions. Schools have a unique opportunity to mitigate traumatic social experiences. Further funds and teaching are needed to positively shape the social experiences of young people, especially youth resettled as refugees.


Medicine and Health Sciences


Works Cited

Bailey, C., McIntyre, E., Arreola, A., & Venta, A. (2020). What Are We Missing? How Language Impacts Trauma Narratives. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 13(2), 153–161.

Grasser, L. R., Haddad, L., Manji, S., Assari, S., Arfken, C., & Javanbakht, A. (2021). Trauma-Related Psychopathology in Iraqi Refugee Youth Resettled in the United States, and Comparison With an Ethnically Similar Refugee Sample: A Cross-Sectional Study. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 574368.

Grasser, L. R., & Marusak, H. (2023). Strong mind, strong body: The promise of mind–body interventions to address growing mental health needs among youth. Mental Health Science, 1–9.

Grasser, L. R., Saad, B., Bazzi, C., Abu Suhaiban, H., Mammo, D., Izar, R., & Jovanovic, T. (2023). The fear that remains: Associations between trauma, related psychopathology, and fear‐potentiated startle in youth resettled as refugees. Developmental Psychobiology, 65(4).

Grasser, L. R., Saad, B., Bazzi, C., Wanna, C., Abu Suhaiban, H., Mammo, D., Jovanovic, T., & Javanbakht, A. (2022). Skin conductance response to trauma interview as a candidate biomarker of trauma and related psychopathology in youth resettled as refugees. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 13(1), 2083375.

Grasser, L. R., & Jovanovic, T. (2022). Neural impacts of stigma, racism, and discrimination. Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

Hinchey, L.-E., Nashef, R., Bazzi, C., Gorski, K., & Javanbakht, A. (2023). The longitudinal impact of war exposure on psychopathology in Syrian and Iraqi refugee youth. International Journal of Social Psychiatry.

Javanbakht, A., Amirsadri, A., Abu Suhaiban, H., Alsaud, M. I., Alobaidi, Z., Rawi, Z., & Arfken, C. L. (2019). Prevalence of Possible Mental Disorders in Syrian Refugees Resettling in the United States Screened at Primary Care. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, 21(3), 664–667.

Javanbakht, A., Stenson, A., Nugent, N., Smith, A., Rosenberg, D., & Jovanovic, T. (2021). Biological and environmental factors affecting risk and resilience among Syrian refugee children. Journal of Psychiatry and Brain Science, 6.

Perreira, K, & Ornelas, I. (2013). Painful Passages: Traumatic Experiences and Post-Traumatic Stress among Immigrant Latino Adolescents and their Primary Caregivers. The International migration review, 47(4), 10.1111/imre.12050.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from University of Michigan. (n.d.). LIWC Dictionary (Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count).