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Adaptive Functioning Behaviors For Trauma-Affected Children In The Cambodian Context

Caleb J. Figge, Cecilia Martinez-Torteya, Sophie Dixon, Steven Santoro, Sopheap Taing, Sotheara Chhim, Devon E. Hinton

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Across contexts, the roles and responsibilities for children are shaped by a range of sociocultural factors; thus, a contextually specific exploration of adaptive functioning norms is important in optimizing the acceptability, effectiveness, and sustainability of mental health intervention and community programming. The current study aimed to examine child adaptive functioning behaviors for children in Cambodia, a country faced with continuing recovery efforts from war and genocide, intergenerational trauma transmission, poverty, and minimal access to health and mental health services. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 30 children (ages 10–13, 16 girls) and 30 caregivers (ages 30–62, 24 females) in the Battambang province of Cambodia receiving mental health services related to caregiver intimate partner violence. Results reveal trauma-affected children in Cambodia engage in a range of familial, occupational, social, religious, and academic functioning domains. Children in this sample reported behaviors that reflect policy and community level priorities of development of children as a societal and economic resource, distress management strategies of self and others informed by mental health therapy and local healing strategies, and engagement in religio-cultural Khmer Buddhist practices and ceremonies. Findings highlight the importance of contextually specific conceptualizations of functional impairment in guiding assessment and community program design and identifying areas for monitoring intervention effectiveness.