Beyond Individual War Trauma: Domestic Violence Against Children in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka

Authors


  • Claudia Catani, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz and Center for Psychiatry Reichenau, Konstanz; Elisabeth Schauer, MA, MPH, Vivo International; Frank Neuner, PhD, Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz and Center for Psychiatry Reichenau, Konstanz.

  • The research mentioned in this study was supported by private donations made to vivo and funding from the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ). The authors would like to thank Kohiladevy Mahendrarajah from Shantiham and Sundaram Divakalala from GTZ, who supported the research in Sri Lanka with their continuous professional and logistical input. The authors would also like to thank Michael Hirth from GTZ for logistical support in Afghanistan and Inge Missmahl from CARITAS for counselor training and supervision.

Address correspondence to Claudia Catani, Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz and Center for Psychiatry Reichenau, D-78457 Konstanz, Germany; E-mail: Claudia.Catani@uni-konstanz.de

Abstract

To date, research on the psychosocial consequences of mass trauma resulting from war and organized violence on children has primarily focused on the individual as the unit of treatment and analysis with particular focus on mental disorders caused by traumatic stress. This body of research has stimulated the development of promising individual-level treatment approaches for addressing psychological trauma. In contrast, there is virtually no literature addressing the effects of mass trauma on the family and community systems. Research conducted in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, two long-standing war-torn societies, found that in addition to multiple exposure to war or disaster-related traumatic events children also indicated high levels of exposure to family violence. These findings point to the need for conjoint family- and community-based programs of prevention and intervention that are specifically tailored for the context of the affected society. In particular, programs should take issues such as poverty, child labor, and parental alcohol use into account in assessing and treating children in the aftermath of mass trauma.

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