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Children's trauma and adjustment reactions to violent and nonviolent war experiences.

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University of Missouri-Columbia 65211, USA.



According to most studies, more than half of children exposed to war meet criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Although we know that children are adversely affected by atrocities of war, we do not know which specific war events are associated with children's stress reactions. For example, it is unclear whether differences exist in response to violent versus nonviolent war-trauma experiences. This study examined the relationship of violent and nonviolent war experiences to children's trauma reactions and adjustment in a group of children from Bosnia.


During the 1994 siege in Sarajevo, 791 children aged 6 to 16 years participated in a study of trauma experience and response, in which assessment questionnaires (Impact of Event Scale, PTSD Reaction Index, Children's Depression Inventory, Child Behavior Checklist, and War Experience Questionnaire) were completed by children and their teachers.


In this sample 41% had clinically significant PTSD symptoms. Children were adversely affected by exposure to both violent and nonviolent war-traumas. An additive effect of trauma exposure on trauma reactions was also found. However, many war experiences were not associated with children's adjustment and trauma reactions.


Additive effects of violence and deprivations during war may overwhelm the coping skills of children and leave them vulnerable to externalizing and internalizing adjustment difficulties and symptoms of PTSD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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