Objective: To establish rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reactions and general mental health problems in children who had experienced war trauma.
Method: A longitudinal study in the Gaza strip with 234 children aged 7 to 12 years, who had experienced war conflict, at 1 year after the initial assessment, that is, during the peace process. Children completed the Child Post Traumatic Stress Reaction Index (CPTS-RI), while the Rutter A2 and B2 Scales were completed by parents and teachers.
Results: The rate of children who reported moderate to severe PTSD reactions at follow-up had decreased from 40.6% (N = 102) to 10.0% (N = 74). 49 children (20.9%) were rated above the cut-off for mental health problems on the Rutter A2 (parent) Scales, and 74 children (31.8%) were above the cut-off on the Rutter B2 (teacher) Scales. The total scores on all three measures had significantly decreased during the 1-year period. The total CPTS-RI score at follow-up was best predicted by the number of traumatic experiences recalled at the first assessment.
Conclusions: PTSD reactions tend to decrease in the absence of further stressors, although a substantial proportion of children still present with a range of emotional and behavioral problems. Cumulative previous experience of war trauma constitutes a risk factor for continuing PTSD symptoms.