Posttraumatic Resilience in Former Ugandan Child Soldiers


  • First and foremost, our gratitude goes to the children at Laroo Boarding School who made this research possible. We extend our gratitude to Malisa Mukanga and Rahel Duresso for their assistance with data collection, to Christophe Bayer for his creative ideas, and to Claus Barkmann, Monica Blotevogel, Tom Toepfer, Elizabeth Stephens, Bill Charette, Victoria Olsen, Monika Bullinger, and Georg Romer for their helpful comments on earlier drafts. This study was funded by the Children for Tomorrow Foundation.

concerning this article should be addressed to Fionna Klasen, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Medical Center Hamburg, Martinistrasse 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany. Electronic mail may be sent to


The present research examines posttraumatic resilience in extremely exposed children and adolescents based on interviews with 330 former Ugandan child soldiers (age = 11–17, female = 48.5%). Despite severe trauma exposure, 27.6% showed posttraumatic resilience as indicated by the absence of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and clinically significant behavioral and emotional problems. Among these former child soldiers, posttraumatic resilience was associated with lower exposure to domestic violence, lower guilt cognitions, less motivation to seek revenge, better socioeconomic situation in the family, and more perceived spiritual support. Among the youth with significant psychopathology, many of them had symptoms extending beyond the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder, in keeping with the emerging concept of developmental trauma disorder. Implications for future research, intervention, and policy are discussed.