The correlation between the exposure of children to war and the symptoms exhibited by the same such as depression, anxiety, aggression and PTSD.
In an attempt to answer the above questions, an interview was conducted. The interviewees were the Lebanon children aged between 10 and 16 years as at December 1990 and January 1991 which was the period when the research happened to be conducted. The research specifically targeted these children since they had lived their entire lives in the period of the civil war hence best suited. The selection method employed was picking children to interview from different geographical areas in Lebanon. This was to achieve broad sampling hence more accurate and reliable results. The four areas were: West Beirut, East Beirut, Southern suburbs of Beirut and Saida which is located south of Lebanon. These four geographical areas were deemed fit since they contained populations from both religious groups; Christians and Muslims alike.
When it came to social class, children were selected from both the private and public schools respectively. In total, a number of 224 children participated in the research. Of the 224 children the following statistics were developed: 90.5% of the children lived with the parent while the remaining 8.3% lived in a separate residence. Most of the children lived with their original families whereas the rest lived with relatives and guardians.
Another data collection method employed was the administering of questionnaires which were duly answered by the same children. The questionnaires took two forms namely: The Childhood War Trauma Questionnaire (CWTQ) and The Post-Traumatic Stress Reaction Checklist (PTSRC). The CTWQ was set and designed to assess the exposure of children to war traumas whereas the PTSRC was structured as basically an interview to measure Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms.
After data was collected, the analysis of results was structured in four stages:
The organization of war experiences of the children was explored.
The relationship between the demographic factors and exposure to war traumas.
Negative and positive developmental outcomes as a result of exposure to the war and war traumas experience.
The variance of developmental outcomes in relation to the demographic factors.
The number of war traumas ranged between 0-20 with an average of six traumas per child which is pretty high. The types and patterns of war traumas distribution were as follows:
Separation from Parents-16.8%
Mental health symptoms, adaptation outcomes and regression analysis were performed before examining whether the number or type of war traumas was related to the PTSD. Several regression analyses were conducted in an attempt to ascertain whether or not the types of wars were directly related to the PTSD symptoms such as depression, anxiety, aggression among others. The results obtained were as follows:
Lebanese children who lived in the era of civil wars differed from each other depending on the number of war traumas that each one experienced. Those who were lucky enough to be sheltered from the atrocities of war experienced significantly less traumas as compared to the ones who were directly faced by the same. Averagely, each Lebanese child was subjected to at least six different types of war traumas.
The types and patterns of war traumas were greatly inter-correlated with the 10 categories that were used for this sample research. The war experiences of the children were determined by grouping them under the theoretical meaningful patterns of experience. Therefore, this was used to determine the factors that were underlying the 10 war trauma categories. Four factors were found to supersede all others in relation to the accumulated effect of the variance in relation to the correlation matrix.
Factor 1 was mainly based on children who had been exposed to Separation from Parents, direct involvement in the hostilities and victims of violent acts. This factor focused more on active/direct involvement or exposure to violence. Factor 2 comprised of children who had been exposed to Displacement and Bereavement. This factor seemed to focus more on the loss experience that the children went through (both through death of close people as well as loss of home environment). Factor 3 focused on the passive involvement of the children in war events. These include: combat/shelling, physical injuries and those children who were first-hand witnesses to violent crimes. Factor 4 was highly scored by the children who were not affected much by the war events mainly because they fled the country during the war years hence did not experience any sort of severe socioeconomic deteriorations especially their family life.
On the relationship between the demographic factors and war traumas; the research found out that age accounted for 3% and gender accounted for 5% of the variance in the number of traumas. The findings were nothing unusual and just as expected, older children and the male gender stood a high chance of being exposed to more war traumas as compared to the younger children and female gender respectively for the obvious reasons.
These Lebanese children also differed from each other depending on the nature of the war that each one experienced. The more severe and brutal the war, the more the trauma a child experienced and the opposite it true. It was also noted that older children were exposed to a greater number of traumas. This is probably due to the fact that these older children were exposed to a greater number of war events as compared to the much younger children.
As a matter of fact boys were more exposed to witnessing violent actions than girls due to the fact that some of them actively participated in the war events hence putting them in the frontline of war. Interestingly enough, it was discovered that the number of war traumas experienced had no effect on mental health whatsoever instead the different types of traumas were responsible for the mental outcomes. Children separated from their loved ones especially families reported increased depressive symptoms.
The relationship between the number of war traumas and PTSD was ascertained to be as follows; the more the number of war traumas the children were exposed to, the more likely they were to develop PTSD symptoms. The reverse is true.
While evaluating the correlation between the type of war traumas and PTSD; it was noted that for depression, demographic variables accounted for approximately 10% of the variance, the additional 6% was as a result of active involvement. Furthermore, more symptoms of depression were exhibited by the children who were separated from their parents as a result of the war compared to the children exposed to any other form of war trauma. In the case of anxiety, demographic variables contributed to 18% of the variance.
Some of the few notable positive outcomes attributed to the war events and war traumas include the behavioral change into responsible children. As a fact, it transitioned them from the childhood stage into being responsible young adults. For instance; on pro social and planful behavior, it was observed that the children who were separated from their parents at an early age gradually developed a sense of responsibility. Pro social behavior was further enhanced by witnessing of the violent acts by the children. In summary, armed conflicts that were chronic in nature were responsible for developmental adjustments by children. These adjustments were characterized by mental health symptoms, depression and adaptation based outcomes related to pro social and planful behavior.
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