What children can tell us about living in danger

Am Psychol. 1991 Apr;46(4):376-83. doi: 10.1037//0003-066x.46.4.376.


Developmental challenges faced by children growing up in situations of chronic danger linked to community violence and communal conflict are reviewed. The concept of post-traumatic stress disorder is expanded to include situations of chronic and on-going traumatic stress associated with dangerous environments--war zones and inner city neighborhoods plagued by violence and crime. Of particular importance is the impact of chronic stress and danger on the child's world view, the child's social map, and the child's moral development. On the basis of field work in 5 war zones, the article points to the importance of adult-led "processing" of the young child's experience to his or her psychological coping and moral development. Some of the contradictions operating in such environments are explored--for example, that "fanatical" ideology may provide short-term support for adults and children but also may serve to prolong communal conflict, impede the necessary processing of experience, and increase vulnerability in the long run.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Arousal*
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Personality Development*
  • Social Environment
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Violence*