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Br J Psychiatry. 2013 Sep;203(3):196-202. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.112.113514. Epub 2013 Jul 25.

Post-traumatic stress symptoms among former child soldiers in Sierra Leone: follow-up study.

Author information

1
Fran├žois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, and Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Former child soldiers are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); however, the trajectory of symptoms has yet to be examined.

AIMS:

The risk and protective factors associated with PTSD symptom change among former child soldiers in Sierra Leone were investigated.

METHOD:

Data from 243 former child soldiers (mean age 16.6 years, 30% female) were analysed.

RESULTS:

Self-reported rates of possible PTSD using standard cut-off points declined from 32% to 16% 4 years later (P<0.05). Symptoms of PTSD at baseline were significantly associated with war experiences (P<0.01) and post-conflict family abuse (P<0.001). Reliable improvement in symptoms was reported by 30%. In growth models examining symptom change, worsening of symptoms was associated with death of a parent (P<0.05) and post-conflict stigma (P<0.001). Protective effects were observed for increases in family acceptance (P<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS:

The findings indicated improvement in PTSD symptoms among former child soldiers despite limited access to care. Family and community support played a vital part in promoting psychological adjustment.

PMID:
23887999
PMCID:
PMC3759030
DOI:
10.1192/bjp.bp.112.113514
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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