Past horrors, present struggles: The role of stigma in the association between war experiences and psychosocial adjustment among former child soldiers in Sierra Leone
“Former child soldiers differ from one another with regard to their post-war experiences, and these differences profoundly shape their psychosocial
adjustment over time. Consistent with social stress theory, we observed that post-conflict factors such as stigma can play an important role in shaping psychosocial adjustment in former child soldiers. We found that discrimination was inversely associated with family and community acceptance. Additionally, higher levels of family acceptance were associated with decreased hostility, while improvements in community acceptance were associated with adaptive attitudes and behaviors. We found that post-conflict experiences of discrimination largely explained the relationship between past involvement in wounding/killing others and subsequent increases in hostility. Stigma similarly mediated the relationship between surviving rape and depression. However, surviving rape continued to demonstrate independent effects on increases in anxiety, hostility and adaptive/prosocial behaviors after adjusting for other variables. These findings point to the complexity of psychosocial adjustment and community reintegration in these youth and have a number of programmatic and policy implications.”
Authors:Theresa S. Betancourt, Jessica Agnew-Blais, Stephen E. Gilman, David R. Williams, B. Heidi Ellis. Social Science & Medicine 70 (2010) 17–26.