The psychosocial consequences for children of mass violence, terrorism and disasters

Int Rev Psychiatry. 2007 Jun;19(3):263-77. doi: 10.1080/09540260701349480.


Children and families are now in the front line of war, conflict and terrorism as a consequence of the paradigm shift in the nature of warfare and the growth of terror as a weapon. They are as vulnerable as are adults to the traumatizing effects of violence and mass violence. Furthermore, employing children as soldiers is not new, but it is continuing and young people are also perpetrators of other forms of violence. This paper summarizes a selection of the literature showing the direct and indirect psychosocial impacts on minors of their exposure to single incident (event) and recurrent or repetitive (process) violence. Additionally, children's psychosocial and physical development may be affected by their engagement with violence as victims or perpetrators. Several studies point to positive learning from certain experiences in particular communities while many others show the potential for lasting negative effects that may result in children being more vulnerable as adults. The spectrum of response is very wide. This paper focuses on resilience but also provides access to several frameworks for planning, delivering and assuring the quality of community and family-orientated and culture-sensitive responses to people's psychosocial needs in the aftermath of disasters of all kinds including those in which children and young people have been involved in mass violence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / ethics
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Disasters / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Mass Behavior*
  • Military Personnel / psychology
  • Minors / psychology
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Social Adjustment
  • Stress Disorders, Traumatic, Acute / psychology
  • Terrorism / psychology*
  • Terrorism / statistics & numerical data
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Warfare / ethics