Cross-cultural response to trauma: A study of traumatic experiences and posttraumatic symptoms in cambodian refugees

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Abstract

Despite a growing literature of cross-cultural research on mental illness, little is known about the universality of most psychiatric disorders. This study was designed to determine whether people from a very different culture have the same symptoms in response to traumatic experiences as do trauma survivors in the United States. We were also interested to find out if the severity of the current symptoms is related to the amount of trauma experienced. Furthermore, we gathered information about the perceived severity of traumatic experiences among refugees. Fifty Cambodian refugees living in the U.S. were asked about their traumatic experiences and their current symptoms of posttraumatic stress, dissociation, depression, and anxiety. High levels of all symptoms were found along with statistically significant relationships between each symptom measure and the amount of trauma experienced. We conclude that the basic symptom picture in this group was similar to that observed in U.S. trauma survivors.

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