Mental health problems among adolescents left behind By their migrant parents in Romania

  • Alina Dafinoiu

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Since the fall of the communist regime in Romania in 1989 and the lifting of the Schengen visa restrictions, an increasing number of Romanians have been migrating to other European countries in search of economic opportunities. It is estimated that 15% of the Romanian population has left the country. While parental migration brings significant opportunities to the society and the family in terms of the remittances that the immigrants sent home, little is known about its impact upon the lives of the adolescents who are left behind (LBA) in Romania. Reports from various charities show LBAs who have mental health problems receive “help” mostly from adults without or with little training in the provision of mental health services. However, empirical evidence to support these reports is absent. The overall objective of this thesis is to investigate living condition and mental health status among adolescents in Romania and adults' mental health literacy. To achieve these objectives, four studies were conducted: Study 1 examined the prevalence and correlates of mental health problems among adolescents who attended 17 public schools (N=1763) in and around Iasi, Romania. Study 2 (N= 887) focused on the characteristics of LBAs in terms of their living arrangement, contact with their migrant parents, and their mental health status. Study 3 compared the prevalence and stability of mental health problems of LBAs and adolescents from non-migrant families who participated in study 1 and who were followed up at an average of 12 months after the first assessment (N=972). Participants in studies 1 to 3 completed a set of questionnaires to measure mental health problems, social support, and parenting styles. Study 4 examined mental health literacy among adults (N=250) who work with adolescents; these adults were recruited from public institutions in Iasi; they were administered a questionnaire describing five 3 vignettes of young people with common mental health problems. Results showed that almost 20% of the adolescents have mental health problems as measured with the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ with emotional problems being the most common). About 15.8% of the participants had migrant parents and half had a migrant mother. No significant differences were found in the prevalence and stability of mental health problems between the two groups of adolescents (i.e., adolescents with migrant parent(s) and adolescents with non-migrant parents). Mental health literacy was low among adults who work with adolescents. These findings are discussed in terms of their clinical and policy implications.
Date of Award5 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SponsorsSacred Heart Rush
SupervisorCecilia Essau (Director of Studies) & George Georgiou (Co-Supervisor)


  • adolescents’ mental health problems
  • Migration
  • anxiety and depression in adolescents
  • social support
  • parental bonding
  • parenting styles

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