Does Perpetrating Violence Damage Mental Health? Differences Between Forcibly Recruited and Voluntary Combatants in DR Congo


  • This research was supported by the NGO vivo international and by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. We are grateful to all the former combatants for their readiness to participate and willingness to talk about often intimate and painful subjects. We thank our local staff, Roger Buhendwa Zashurwa, Ben Ombeni Cigolo, and Flory Barhimanya Kahisa for translating the interviews, their commitment to our work, and their empathy with participants. Moreover, we thank the staff of the training center Equipe d' Education et d'Encadrement des Traumatisés de Nyiragongo in Goma and the staff of the demobilization camp of the United Nations in Goma for all their help. We are grateful to James Moran who critically reviewed the manuscript. Last but not least, we thank Heike Riedke for her support with data collection and logistics. We profited a lot from her extensive knowledge of the Great Lakes Region.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Tobias Hecker, Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Box 23/25, 78457 Konstanz, Germany. E-mail:


As a consequence of the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), combatants are constantly involved in various forms of violence. Findings concerning the impact of perpetrating violence on mental health are contradictory, ranging from increasing to buffering the risk for mental ill health. The present study investigated the impact of perpetrating violence on mental health. In total, 204 forcibly recruited and voluntary male combatants (mean age = 24.61 years) from different armed groups in the eastern DRC took part in the study. In a semistructured interview, respondents were questioned about appetitive aggression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as self-experienced violence and self-perpetrated violent offending. A multivariate analysis of variance (η2 = .23) revealed that voluntary combatants perpetrated more violent acts (η2 = .06) and showed higher appetitive aggression η2 = .03). A moderated multiple regression analysis (R2 = .20) showed that perpetrating violence was positively related to PTSD in forcibly recruited combatants, but not in voluntary combatants. Thus, perpetrating violence may not necessarily qualify as a traumatic stressor. Further studies might consider assessing the combatant's perception of committing violent acts.

Traditional and Simplified Chinese Abstracts by AsianSTSS

標題:施行暴力會否損害精神健康?剛果(DR Congo)強制徵兵和自願兵的分野。

撮要:由於剛果民主共和國(DRC)持續內戰,戰士持續進行各種暴力事件。施行暴力影響精神健康的研究結果多自相矛盾,包括增加或緩衝精神病態發展的風險。本研究在東DRC的不同武裝派別中取得204位強制徵兵和自願兵(平均年齡=24.61歲)為樣本,研究施行暴力對精神健康的影響。在半結構化面談中,受訪者被問及慾求侵略,創傷後壓力症(PTSD),自我遭受暴力,和自我施行暴力罪行各方面,MANOVA(η2= .23)分析自願兵犯下更多暴力事件(η2= .06)和有更多慾求侵略(η2=.03)。制約多重回歸分析(R2=.20)展示在強制徵兵中施行暴力和PTSD有正面關連,但未見於自願兵內。所以施行暴力或未必構成創傷壓力源。我們需要更多研究評估戰士對犯罪行為的感受。

标题:实行暴力会否损害精神健康?刚果(DR Congo)强制征兵和自愿兵的分别。

撮要:由于刚果民主共和国(DRC)持续内战,战士持续进行各种暴力事件。实行暴力影响精神健康的研究结果多自相矛盾,包括增加或减缓精神病态发展的风险。本研究在东DRC的不同武装派别中取得204位强制征兵和自愿兵(平均年龄=24.61岁)为样本,研究实行暴力对精神健康的影响。在半结构化面谈中,受访者被询问欲求侵略,创伤后压力症(PTSD),自我遭受暴力,和自我实行暴力罪行各方面,MANOVA(η2= .23)分析自愿兵犯下更多暴力事件(η2= .06)和有更多欲求侵略(η2=.03)。制约多重回归分析(R2=.20)展示在强制征兵中实行暴力和PTSD有正面关系,但未见于自愿兵内。所以实行暴力或未必构成创伤压力起源。我们需要更多研究评估战士对犯罪行为的感受。