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Lancet. 2004 Mar 13;363(9412):861-3.

Post-traumatic stress in former Ugandan child soldiers.

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  • 1Department of Orthopedagogics, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Gent, Belgium.


Worldwide, 300?000 children are currently used as child soldiers in armed conflicts. We interviewed 301 former child soldiers who had been abducted by the northern Ugandan rebellion movement Lord's Resistance Army. All the children were abducted at a young age (mean 12.9 years) and for a long time (mean 744 days). Almost all the children experienced several traumatic events (mean six events); 233 (77%) saw someone being killed, and 118 (39%) had to kill someone themselves. 71 children also filled in the impact of event scale--revised to assess their post-trauma stress reactions. 69 (97%) reported post-traumatic stress reactions of clinical importance. The death of a parent, especially of the mother, led to an important increase in score for avoidance symptoms (mother alive 16.4, mother not alive 21.6; p=0.04), with a high increase for girls (from 15.1 to 25.8), but almost no change for boys (from 17.7 to 17.4; p=0.02). Our findings shed light on the nature of severe trauma experienced by this group of children, and show a high rate of post-traumatic stress reactions.

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