A New Study Looks to Understand PTSD Development in Syrian Children


A new investigation is looking at the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children from war-torn Syria. Most of the people who go through the trauma and turmoil of war do not experience PTSD. Certain factors surrounding the upbringing of the Syrian refugee children were seen to increase the likelihood of developing this condition.

The Emotional Effects of War

The effects of witnessing violence and extreme trauma firsthand can have a massive toll on the human emotional state. This is only amplified in the case of children. The new study was conducted by Elie Karam, a Lebanese psychiatrist, together with some colleagues. He serves as the president of the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care, (IDRAAC). This is a nonprofit mental health organization located in Beirut.

Two factors were found to have the most impact on whether children who fled war-torn Syrian developed PTSD. The first factor was whether a child grew up with a high sense of awareness and responsiveness to the good and the bad in the home, school, and neighborhood. The second factor was whether such a child, who can be categorized as environmentally sensitive, did not face many adversities early in life. This includes a serious illness in the family or fighting parents in the home.

Children with these factors at play in their upbringing were found to be at a high risk of developing PTSD. The effects were greatest when highly sensitive children experienced low or moderate childhood adversity. Children who experienced high levels of childhood adversity prior to war faced more or less the same level of PTSD risk, regardless of their environmental sensitivity. The findings are set to appear in the British Journal of Psychiatry. This research work adds to the growing body of knowledge concerning how different children respond or rely on nurturing environments.

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