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Original Papers

Psychological effects of boarding students in schools far away from home – a qualitative study of a sample of students referred to a psychiatry clinic from Central Sri Lanka

Author:

A. S. Malalagama

Base Hospital Diyatalawa, LK
About A. S.
Consultant Psychiatrist
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Abstract

Background

The education system in Sri Lanka drives parents to seek popular schools in cities for their children, some of who are being boarded far away from their homes (1). Living away from home at a young age can cause grief and even depression. Children boarded at an early age may present with a cluster of symptoms later in life known as “Boarding School Syndrome” (BSS) (2).

 

Aims

The aims of this study were to explore the psychological effects of being boarded in schools far away from home, in a sample of students referred to the psychiatry unit of Base Hospital Diyatalawa.

 

Methods

This was a qualitative study. Students who had been boarded in schools in four towns, who were referred to the psychiatry unit, and their parents, were interviewed using a semi-structured interview. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and thematic analysis was done.

 

Results

Seven students were interviewed, aged between 11- 18 yrs with a mean age of 13.4 yrs. Several main themes were identified from the analysis; grief at leaving home, difficulty in transitioning to the new school environment, worry about effect on scholastic performance after boarding, crisis situations and cries for help, and the experience of emotional abuse. Several students also had features of depression.

 

Conclusions

The findings of this study suggest that separation from parents in childhood significantly increases the risk of negative psychological outcomes including depressive symptoms. This is in keeping with findings from similar previous studies. Psychiatrists should be aware of the possible negative impact of being separated from parents and boarded away from home, when assessing children and adolescents.
How to Cite: Malalagama, A.S., 2020. Psychological effects of boarding students in schools far away from home – a qualitative study of a sample of students referred to a psychiatry clinic from Central Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Journal of Psychiatry, 11(1), pp.14–19. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljpsyc.v11i1.8223
Published on 18 Jun 2020.
Peer Reviewed

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