Effects of political and military traumas on children: the Palestinian case

Clin Psychol Rev. 1999 Dec;19(8):935-50. doi: 10.1016/s0272-7358(99)00004-5.


Social scientists have long recognized that individuals subjected to traumatic events associated with military and political conflict experience dire psychological consequences. The systematic study of this phenomenon, however, could be considered a nascent event. Research on the psychological sequel of traumatic events (traumatology) is well-rooted in the recognition and development of posttraumatic stress disorder as a separate psychological disorder category. The early studies in this field focused mainly on adult populations. With the recent advent of involvement of children in military conflicts such as in Africa (e.g., Mozambique), the Middle East (e.g., Palestine, Lebanon), and Southeast Asia (e.g., Cambodia), psychologists have taken a keen interest in examining the psychological effects such conflicts reap on children. Hence, a growing but modest body of literature has been amassed within the past 20 years on the subject. This article is an attempt to synthesize this literature in order to examine the universal and culture-specific correlates of political and military trauma. Specifically, the article will focus on the psychological symptoms children display following their exposure to such traumatic events. Special emphasis will be placed on anxiety, phobic, psychosomatic, and depressive symptoms. More importantly, however, an examination will be made to ascertain which factors (e.g., psychosocial, cultural, and political) serve to shield (protect) or predispose (vulnerability) children to psychological dysfunction. Furthermore, the analyses presented will be gender specific. The article will attempt to delineate a paradigm that explains the relationship between trauma, culture, and personality. Although the article will examine studies from various regions, specific emphasis will be placed on the Palestinian experience.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arabs / psychology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Politics*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Warfare*