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Exposure to war trauma and PTSD among parents and children in the Gaza strip

Abstract

Objective

Exposure to war trauma has been independently associated with posttraumatic stress (PTSD) and other emotional disorders in children and adults. The aim of this study was to establish the relationship between ongoing war traumatic experiences, PTSD and anxiety symptoms in children, accounting for their parents’ equivalent mental health responses.

Methods

The study was conducted in the Gaza Strip, in areas under ongoing shelling and other acts of military violence. The sample included 100 families, with 200 parents and 197 children aged 9–18 years. Parents and children completed measures of experience of traumatic events (Gaza Traumatic Checklist), PTSD (Children’s Revised Impact of Events Scale, PTSD Checklist for parents), and anxiety (Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale, and Taylor Manifest Anxiety Scale for parents).

Results

Both children and parents reported a high number of experienced traumatic events, and high rates of PTSD and anxiety scores above previously established cut-offs. Among children, trauma exposure was significantly associated with total and subscales PTSD scores, and with anxiety scores. In contrast, trauma exposure was significantly associated with PTSD intrusion symptoms in parents. Both war trauma and parents’ emotional responses were significantly associated with children’s PTSD and anxiety symptoms.

Conclusions

Exposure to war trauma impacts on both parents’ and children’s mental health, whose emotional responses are inter-related. Both universal and targeted interventions should preferably involve families. These could be provided by non-governmental organizations in the first instance.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the families and children who participated in this study, for their openness in sharing such difficult issues. Also, we wish to thank the team that collected the data under shelling and enormous difficulties.

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Correspondence to Panos Vostanis.

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Thabet, A.A., Tawahina, A.A., El Sarraj, E. et al. Exposure to war trauma and PTSD among parents and children in the Gaza strip. Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry 17, 191 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00787-007-0653-9

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Key words

  • war
  • trauma
  • parents
  • child
  • PTSD