Post traumatic stress disorder among former child soldiers attending a rehabilitative service and primary school education in northern Uganda

Afr Health Sci. 2008 Sep;8(3):136-41.


Background: This study was prompted by the psychiatric hospitalization of 12 former child soldiers of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) at a rehabilitation school in northern Uganda with a case of mass psychotic behavior.

Objectives: To report the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, depressed mood, and associated risk factors.

Methods: Data on post-traumatic stress disorder, depressed mood, physical disabilities, socio-demographic variables, and the children's war experiences were collected in face-to-face interviews using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ), a modified Hopkins Symptoms Check-List (HSCL), and a 15-item War Trauma Experience Check-list (WTECL-15). Data was analyzed with SPSS version 11.0.

Results: There were 58 girls and 44 boys. Eighty nine children (87.3%) reported having experienced ten or more war-related traumatic psychological events; 55.9% of the children suffered from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, 88.2%, symptoms of depressed mood and 21.6% had various forms of physical disability. Nearly half of the children (42.2%) reported a positive family history of severe mental illness; 10.8%, a family history of suicide; 22.5%, a family history of suicide attempt; and 45.1%, a family history of alcohol abuse. Children who experienced 10 or more traumatic war events were more likely than the rest to experience depressed mood. Return through a reception center or through a cleansing ritual did not protect against depression.

Discussion: Post-traumatic stress disorder among former LRA child soldiers at a rehabilitation centre in northern Uganda is presented. The report highlights the huge unmet need for psychological services among former child soldiers of the LRA.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / education*
  • Military Personnel / psychology
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Schools
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / rehabilitation*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Uganda / epidemiology
  • Warfare
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology