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Omega (Westport). 2007-2008;56(3):229-53.

Psychosocial effects of war experiences among displaced children in southern Darfur.

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Yale University, Connecticut, USA.


This study focused on assessing the psychosocial effects of the long standing, high intensity, and guerrilla-style of warfare among displaced children in Southern Darfur. The goal was to better understand the etiology, prognosis, and treatment implications for traumatic reactions, depression, and grief symptoms in this population. Three hundred thirty-one children aged 6-17 from three IDP Camps were selected using a quota sampling approach and were administered a Demographic Questionnaire, Child Post Traumatic Stress Reaction Index, Child Depression Inventory, and the Expanded Grief Inventory. Forty-three percent were girls and 57% were boys. The mean age of the children was 12 years. Results found that children were exposed to a very large number of war experiences with no significant differences between genders for types of exposure, including rape, but with older children (13-17 years) facing a larger number of exposures than younger children (6-12 years). Out of the 16 possible war experiences, the mean number was 8.94 (SD = 3.27). Seventy-five percent of the children met the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD, and 38% exhibited clinical symptoms of depression. The percentage of children endorsing significant levels of grief symptoms was 20%. Increased exposure to war experiences led to higher levels of: (1) traumatic reactions; (2) depression; and (3) grief symptoms. Of the 16 war experiences, abduction, hiding to protect oneself, being raped, and being forced to kill or hurt family members were most predictive of traumatic reactions. Being raped, seeing others raped, the death of a parent/s, being forced to fight, and having to hide to protect oneself were the strongest predictors of depressive symptoms. War experiences such as abduction, death of one's parent/s, being forced to fight, and having to hide to protect oneself were the most associated with the child's experience of grief. In addition to Total Grief, Traumatic Grief, Existential Grief, and Continuing Bonds were measured in these children. Although trauma, depression, and grief often exist as co-morbid disorders, the mechanisms and pathways of these is less understood. In this study we used Structural Equation Modeling to better understand the complex interaction and trajectories of these three symptoms evolving from war exposure and loss. This study is the first of its kind to assess the psychosocial effects of war experiences among children currently living in war zone areas within Sudan. It identifies some of the most prevalent war-related atrocities and their varying impact on the children's psychological well-being and overall adjustment. Implications for planning mental health interventions are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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