Dr. Judit Szente


This study investigates how children's experiences as Haitian refugees influence the development of atypical childhood fears. Eighteen child refugees were interviewed about their personal primary fear objects and their interpretation of fear in a series of drawing and picture observation exercises. Five of these eighteen children were Haitian refugees. Each of the refugee children had one adult representative who was interviewed about the child, the family's demographic information, and the child's previous traumatic experiences in his/her native country. The refugee children and their adult representatives' responses to the interview questions were coded and analyzed according to themes. Results suggest that Haitian refugee children have a higher rate of moderately life-threatening and life-threatening previous traumatic experiences. Results also indicate that the majority of Haitian refugee children reported amphibians as their primary fear objects, suggesting that the geographic location and characteristics of Haiti contribute to the development of Haitian children's primary fear objects. While animal and imaginary/cultural creatures may be the most prominently identified and interpreted Haitian fear, Haitian refugee children may interpret more life-threatening fears when prompted by the image of a child under a tree.

About the Author

Jessy will be graduating from UCF in Spring 2014 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Early Childhood Development and Education. During her time at UCF, she was very involved in researching and serving the refugee community in the Central Florida area. Jessy completed the Honors in the Major program, served as a research peer mentor for the 2013 Summer Research Academy, presented research at four national conferences, and held RA positions in both the Psychology Department and the School of Teaching, Learning, and Leadership at UCF. Jessy will be pursuing a master's degree in Global Health in Fall 2014, where she will continue to research the mental and physical health of refugees in the US and overseas. After earning her master's, Jessy plans on attending a Ph.D. program that will allow her to pursue her dream of becoming an international refugee researcher.



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