Children as victims of war: current knowledge and future research needs

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1993 Jul;32(4):697-708. doi: 10.1097/00004583-199307000-00001.


Recent international events have drawn attention to the effects of war-related events and processes on children and their families. This review of the literature concerning the existence, frequency, and type of social, emotional, and behavioral problems in children exposed to war indicates significant methodological problems in previous research. Available evidence suggests that massive exposure to wartime trauma seems likely to overwhelm most children's defenses; however, children's cognitive immaturity, plasticity, and innate adaptive capacities may mitigate war's effects in low-to-moderately intense wartime settings, resulting in self-protective, adaptive, cognitive styles that allow effective functioning after acclimatization. Promising recent research has shifted from the focus on psychopathology to social awareness, values, and attitudes. More research will be needed to determine how age, developmental, family, and community factors may mediate the strength and nature of wartime effects, and to determine which interventions are most effective in a variety of settings and cultural contexts.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bereavement
  • Child
  • Combat Disorders / diagnosis
  • Combat Disorders / psychology
  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Family Therapy
  • Humans
  • Maternal Deprivation
  • Paternal Deprivation
  • Personality Development
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Survival / psychology*
  • Warfare*