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Ideological commitment and posttraumatic stress in former Tamil child soldiers


Pushpa Kanagaratnam, Department of Psychosocial Sciences, University of Bergen, Christiesgt 12, N-5015 Bergen, Norway. Fax: +47 55589882; e-mail:


This study focuses on the impact of present ideological commitment on posttraumatic stress symptoms in former child soldiers living in exile. Eighteen men and two women (aged 25–37), who had joined different Tamil armed groups in Sri Lanka between the ages of 13 and 17 years, participated. The Impact of Event Scale was used to measure posttraumatic symptoms. Qualitative methods were used to investigate the participants’ ideological commitment. Participants reported being exposed to many potentially traumatizing events, and had high scores on the Impact of Event Scale. Twenty-five percent of the sample showed strong ideological commitment to the “cause”. Ideological commitment at the present seemed to predict better mental health when exposure was less intense and overwhelming. Time had a negative impact on ideological commitment.

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