Trauma-related impairment in children—A survey in Sri Lankan provinces affected by armed conflict
Objectives: The present study examinedtraumatic experiences, PTSD, and co-morbid symptoms in relation to neuropsychological and school performance in school children affected by two decades of civil war and unrest.
Method: The epidemiological survey of children’s mental health included a representative sample of 420 school children. Local teacherswere trained to administer a translation of the UCLA-PTSD Index Form. The instrument and the epidemiological findingswere validated by assessment through clinical expert interview, school grades, and neuropsychological testing in a subsample (N= 67).
Results: Ninety-two percent of the children surveyed had experienced severely traumatizing events such as combat, bombing, shelling, or witnessing the death of a loved one. Twenty-five percent met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD. Traumatized children reported lasting interference of experiences with their daily life, whichwas corroborated by memory testing, scores in school performance and ratings of social withdrawal. Depressive symptoms and poor physical health were frequent in these children. The majority of trained teachers achieved valid results in the structured interviews.
Conclusion: Performance and functioning in children are related to the total load of traumatic events experienced. An important component of psychosocial programs in postconflict areas should include increasing community-based awareness of the consequences of traumatic stress, both as a preventative measure and as away of decreasing stigmatization of affected individuals.