Psychological Distress and Adjustment of Vietnamese Refugees in the United States: Association With Pre- and Postmigration Factors

Dina Birman, Nellie Tran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to examine how pre- and postmigration factors affect the psychological distress and adjustment for a community sample of Vietnamese refugees resettled in the United States. The sample included a substantial proportion of ex-political detainees who experienced a particularly large number of traumatic events prior to migration. Additionally, the study assessed postmigration experiences using multidimensional and bidirectional measures of acculturation to the Vietnamese and American cultures and measures of satisfaction with social support from like-ethnic and host culture network members. Psychological adjustment and distress were assessed with depression, anxiety, alienation, and life satisfaction. Findings show that premigration traumatic experiences predicted only measures of anxiety. The other measures of adjustment and distress were predicted by postmigration factors, including acculturation and social support. In sum, findings suggest that different psychological outcomes are predicted by different pre- and postmigration factors, suggesting that adjustment is a complex process that involves multiple indicators and dimensions. Significant differences were also found between ex-political detainees and other Vietnamese refugees suggesting the importance of considering their unique experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-120
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Vietnamese
  • acculturation
  • ex-political detainees
  • migration
  • refugee

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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