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Multiple trauma and mental health in former Ugandan child soldiers

Authors

  • Fionna Klasen,

    Corresponding author
    1. University Medical Center Hamburg and University of Hamburg
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg, and Department of Psychology, University of Hamburg
    • University Medical Center Hamburg, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Research Center Children for Tomorrow, Martinistrasse 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany
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  • Gabriele Oettingen,

    1. New York University and University of Hamburg
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Psychology, New York University, and Department of Psychology, University of Hamburg
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  • Judith Daniels,

    1. University Medical Center Hamburg
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg
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  • Hubertus Adam

    1. University Medical Center Hamburg
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg
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  • First and foremost, our gratitude goes to the children at Laroo Boarding School who shared their experiences with us, and we thank the teachers at the school who helped us during data collection. We further wish to thank Manuela Post, Catrin Hoyer, Malisa Mukanga, and Rahel Duresso for their assistance in carrying out this survey. We thank Christophe Bayer for his ideas and support. Finally, our gratitude goes to Prof. Peter Riedesser, Prof. Monika Bullinger, Dr. Claus Barkmann, Dr. James Okello, and Monica Blotevogel for their helpful comments on earlier drafts. This research was financially supported by the Children for Tomorrow Foundation.

Abstract

The present study examines the effect of war and domestic violence on the mental health of child soldiers in a sample consisting of 330 former Ugandan child soldiers (age: 11–17 years, female: 49%). All children had experienced at least 1 war-related event and 78% were additionally exposed to at least 1 incident of domestic violence. Prevalences of posttraumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder were 33%, and 36%, respectively. Behavioral and emotional problems above clinical cutoff were measured in 61%. No gender differences were found regarding mental health outcomes. War experience and domestic violence were significantly associated with all mental health outcomes. The authors' findings point to the detrimental effects of domestic violence in addition to traumatizing war experiences in child soldiers.

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