Mideast children scarred due to war exposure: Study

A study urges Israel and Palestinians to seriously engage in peace dialogue.

Updated: Sep 17, 2010, 17:50 PM IST

Jerusalem: Continued violence between Israelis and Palestinians has made children in the region psychologically scarred, a new study has found, suggesting its leadership to seriously engage in dialogue to bring in peace to the region.

The University of Michigan study, presented at the International Society for Research on Aggression, found that children who saw the most violence in the region experienced the highest levels of fear, anxiety, nightmares and incapacitating thoughts.

The study, which examined 1,500 children aged between 11 and 14 from the region, found that nearly 50 percent of Palestinian children have witnessed other Palestinians upset or crying because someone they knew or loved had been killed by Israelis.

Nearly the same proportion reported seeing in person other Palestinians who were injured or dead, lying on stretchers or on the ground, as a result of Israeli attacks in the last year.

For Israelis, the figures were lower but still appallingly high, according to the results from the first year of the three-year longitudinal study.

More than 25 percent of Israeli Jewish children of the same age reported seeing other Israelis upset or crying because someone they knew or loved had been killed by Palestinians, and nearly 10 percent said they had seen in person other Israelis injured or dead.

"The results show that Palestinian children in particular are seeing extraordinary amounts of very disturbing violence in their daily lives," said lead researcher Rowell Huesmann, director of the Research Centre for Group Dynamics at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR).

"Furthermore, this exposure is very deleterious. It is associated with dramatic increases in post-traumatic stress symptoms and increases in aggressive behaviour directed at peers."

According to the study, the more the kids are exposed to the bloodshed, the higher their level of fear, anxiety, nightmares and incapacitating thoughts.

For example, more than 70 percent of Israeli Arab children who saw these things frequently had nightmares.

Even more disturbing, both Palestinian and Israeli youth who saw the most violence were significantly more likely to slap, choke, punch, beat, or threaten others of their own groups with a gun or a knife. For example, 51 percent of youth at the lowest levels of violence exposure reported having committed at least one of those acts during the past year versus 71 per cent of youth at the highest levels of violence exposure.

"The results show that Palestinian children in particular are seeing extraordinary amounts of very disturbing violence in their daily lives, and the more they are exposed to violence, the more anxiety they experience and the more aggressively they behave," said ISR psychologist Eric Dubow, co-researchers of the study.

The study is a collaboration between the ISR, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.

PTI