The War Experiences and Psychosocial Development of Children in Lebanon


  • This research was supported by a grant from the Smith-Richardson Foundation to Lawrence Aber and by funds from private Lebanese donors to Mona Macksoud. We thank our colleagues at the Faculty of Health Sciences, American University of Beirut, especially Mary Deeb, Dolly Basil, Nehmat El-Ahmar, Rima Saliba, and Jahda Abou Khalil, for their support throughout the data collection phase of the research. We also thank our colleagues at Columbia University, especially Ilene Cohn, Robin Garfinkel, Paul Martin, Andrea Massar, Pam Morris, and Jane Spinak, and at other institutions, especially Neil Boothby, Atle Dyregrov, Magne Raundalen, and Elizabeth Marcelino, for their advice and support during the design and analysis phases of the research. We are very grateful to a number of past and current UNICEF officials who encouraged us to pursue science in the service of social action, especially Vesna Bosnjak, Clarence Shubert, and Agop Kayayan. Finally, very special thanks to all the principals, teachers, families, and children of Lebanon who participated in this study.

Send reprint requests to Lawrence Aber, National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University School of Public Health, 154 Haven Avenue, New York, NY 10032.


This study examines the number and types of war traumas children face growing up in a war-torn country and the relation of such traumatic experiences to their psychosocial development. A sample of 224 Lebanese children (10–16 years old) were interviewed using measures of war exposure, mental health symptoms, adaptational outcomes, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The number and type of children's war traumas varied meaningfully in number and type by their age, gender, father's occupational status, and mother's educational level. As predicted, the number of war traumas experienced by a child was positively related to PTSD symptoms; and various types of war traumas were differentially related to PTSD, mental health symptoms, and adaptational outcomes. For example, children who were exposed to multiple war traumas, were bereaved, became victims of violent acts, witnessed violent acts, and/or were exposed to shelling or combat exhibited more PTSD symptoms. Children who were separated from parents reported more depressive symptoms and children who experience bereavement and were not displaced reported more planful behavior. Lastly, children who were separated from parents and who witnessed violent acts reported more prosocial behavior. Implications for program interventions and directions for future research on the effects of war on the psychosocial development of children are explored.