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Keywords:

  • children;
  • war;
  • massacres;
  • Impact of Event Scale

Abstract

A total of 3030 children age 8–19 years from Rwanda was interviewed about their war experiences and reactions approximately 13 months after the genocide that started in April 1994. Rwandan children had been exposed to extreme levels of violence in the form of witnessing the death of close family members and others in massacres, as well as other violent acts. A majority of these children (90%) believed that they would die; most had to hide to surive, and 15% had to hide under dead bodies to surive. A shortened form of the Impact of Event Scale used in a group of 1830 of these children documented high levels of intrusion and avoidance. While children living in shelters were exposed to more trauma, they evidenced less posttraumatic reactions. Analyses showed that reactions were associated with loss, violence exposure, and, most importantly, feeling their life was in danger.