The Contributions of Political Life Events to Psychological Distress Among South African

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Abstract

The psychological consequences of adverse political experiences among South African youth were studied in a sample of 540 black and white adolescents from two age groups, evenly divided by gender. Three questionnaires were administered, measuring exposure to political life events, the presence of symptoms of psychopathology, and stressful personal life events during the previous 5 years. The first hypothesis, predicting a substantial contribution of stressful political experiences to psychopathology, was strongly supported; when stressful personal life events were partialed out, a significant effect for political life events remained both on general distress and symptomatology indices. The second hypothesis of a linear relation between exposure to political life events and severity of distress was also confirmed. The findings underscore the enduring impact on children's mental health of past apartheid policies in South Africa specifically, and adverse political environments in general.

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