Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


College of Education and International Services

First Advisor

Jimmy Kijai

Second Advisor

Curt VanderWall

Third Advisor

Tim Spruill



With the onset of the Cambodian holocaust, as well as over 40 years of continual war in Cambodia, the Khmer people have been subjected to an existence of prolonged exposure to disaster, contributing to the alarming prevalence of the mental health disorder of post-traumatic stress among Cambodians today. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the debilitating syndrome described as the development of characteristic symptoms following a psychologically traumatic event that is generally outside the range of usual human experience (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition revised, [DSM-III-R], 1987). The purpose of this study was to examine the existence and evidence of this disorder among refugee and resettled Cambodians with attention given to the established themes that affect the manifestation of post-traumatic stress.


As little has been published in the area, the diagnostic parameters from the DSM-III-R and research of post-traumatic stress disorder among Vietnam veterans were used as a background and a base for the present study. Interviews with the Indochinese located along the Thailand border refugee camps, phenomenological interviews conducted among resettled refugees, as well as follow-up interviews conducted 2 years following initial interviews were the way this study was operationalized.


Findings include an exploration of post-traumatic stress disorder, with evidence of the alarming degree to which the disorder is experienced. The results from the informal surveys in Thailand refugee camps include evidence of all subjects suffering from PTSD. The indepth phenomenological interviews also indicate evidence that those interviewed suffer from PTSD. Theme relating to PTSD symptoms include (1) adjustment and resettlement issues continue to face resettled Cambodians, compounding PTSD symptoms, (2) a wide variety fo symptoms of PTSD exist and are exhibited to varying degrees by Cambodians, (3) family in all respects is of utmost importance and is a major source of support and strength in coping with PTSD symptomology, (4) a belief in spiritual issues influences in multiple ways, guiding, aiding, offering peace and hope in coping with PTSD, (5) issues of trust and mistrust confront resettled Cambodians as a byproduct of past trauma, and (6) the future is extremely important and is used as a coping mechanism to deal with PTSD symptoms.


Post-traumatic stress disorder among resettled and refugee Cambodian victims of prolonged trauma proves to be a serious mental health concern. In an effort to better understand post-traumatic stress disorder as it relates to Cambodian trauma victims, Western assumptions and values regarding the manifestation of symptoms, the utilization of mental health services and attitudes toward counseling must be understood in light of eastern experiences, views, and culture. To aid in this understanding, analysis of in-depth, phenomenological interviews provides information and an overview of post-traumatic stress disorder among Cambodians. It is only then that service providers can utilize effective healing and intervention in working with Cambodian victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Subject Area

Post-traumatic stress disorder--Indochina; Refugees--Indochina


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