Violence and Mental Health in Young Afghans Studied

Several factors linked to ratings on questionnaire assessing possible psychiatric disorders

FRIDAY, Aug. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Many Afghan children and teenagers have experienced a variety of types of trauma related to war and other sources that may influence their mental health, according to research published online Aug. 21 in The Lancet.

Catherine Panter-Brick, Ph.D., of Durham University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues analyzed data from interviews with 1,011 youths, an equal number of their primary caregivers, and 358 of the children's teachers. The students were 11 to 16 years old and attended 25 schools in three regions of Afghanistan.

The researchers found that roughly 22 percent of students met the criteria for probable psychiatric disorder based on informant responses to the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Being female, having exposure to multiple traumatic events, living in Kabul, and caregiver's symptoms of poor mental health predicted SDQ ratings and depression symptoms. The article states that two-thirds of the children reported traumatic experiences.

"In Afghanistan, there is a spectrum of violence -- ranging from armed insurgency to family conflict -- which generates sudden pain and persistent suffering. Our data suggest that, in Afghan children's lives, everyday violence matters just as much as militarized violence in the recollection of traumatic experiences," the authors write. "Some children identified severe domestic beatings, a severe accident, or a frightening medical treatment as more traumatic than having witnessed parents and grandparents being killed in rocket attacks."

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Eric Metcalf

Eric Metcalf

Published on August 21, 2009

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