D'Alessandra, Federica, "Psychological Consequences of Becoming a Child Soldier..."

Title: "Psychological Consequences of Becoming a Child Soldier: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depression, and Other Forms of Impairment"
Author: Federica D'Alessandra
Publication Date: 3/10/2014
Abstract: As the civilian population is increasingly targeted in wars, children constitute an increasing quota among the victims of each conflict. More often than not, the horrific practice of targeting civilians during conflict is seconded by the deplorable active use of child soldiers. In some countries, a whole generation of children seems to have grown up without knowing peace. A lot has been written about war-affected people, and the psychological consequences that they bear as a result of these traumatic experiences; yet, a literature that focuses specifically on the psychological burden of child soldiers is only now slowly emerging. While it might be intuitive that war and widespread violence leave deep psychological scars, it is essential to understand what shape these scars take on children. The relevance of the topic is striking at both a humanitarian and a developmental level as ‘lost education can take years to regain, and physical and psychological trauma may be long lasting’. Some of these conflicts are fought in countries that already struggle with emerging from poverty, and involve up to a third of male youth in active combat (many below the age of eighteen). With so many young children affected, the damage to human capital –if not efficiently tackled- ‘could hinder a nation’s productivity and growth for decades’. While this article does not aim at measuring the long-term loss that conscription of child soldiers might bring at a national level, it does intent to present evidence that children who have been enlisted and conscripted experience higher traumas and different mental health consequences than other war-affected children. The purpose of this article is to show that according to specific factors in the history of the war-affected child, predictions concerning a specific mental illness can be made. After briefly presenting the notions of child soldier, abuse in armed contexts, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental illnesses, this article will analyze the impact that war traumas and conscription are likely to exercise on children. The article will explore the differences between conscripted and non-conscripted war-affected children, boys and girls, and the correlation that other factors such as age, loss of one or more parent, and exposure to violence during and after the conscription have in the prediction of psychological disorders and other forms of impairment. The article will conclude with few policy relevant considerations.
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