The Impact of War on the Mental Health of Children


Conflict is seen to affect emotional health of the children who are the most vulnerable population when wars occurs. Between 1945 and 1992 there was more than 149 wars which affected a significant number of innocent children. According to Shapira (2013) more than 2 million people were killed in these wars with around 1 million being affected in different ways. Some were orphaned while others faced then brutal death.  Development which have been witnessed in warfare has heightened the effects on psychological health of the young children. According to Singer (2010), there exists more sophistication in dealing with war from within or external attacks.  With the new arms beings invented as the days progress, more killings are done without considering the age. The children are able to witness every act which makes them fear for their lives.  Shapira (2013) affirms that young people are witnesses of the animosity in the society which is aired in the media. A research conducted by Mohammed (2016) indicates that man perpetrated violence such as war affects generation after generation for the rest of their lives. He further notes that those living in war zones have shown psychological disorder symptoms. The volatility of the areas to any kind of violence keeps the victims in fear, unable to connect and socialize with other beings freely (Betancourt and Khan 317).

Literature Review

Exposure in trauma of killing and merciless acts has an effects ofcausing rebellion in young children(Betancourt and Khan 321). The young ones do not climb this upheal without showing some reactions from the outside. One of the most evident result is withdrawal from the social life.  This is whereby they feel everyone is a threat and consider to remain within the protection of parents or family members. Dokkedahl and Oboke (2015) asserts that this protection is sometime not helpful. They might also feel insecure with their parents and results to seeking help from their own. This could mean choosing to commit suicide or even embracing the street life. Prolonged exposure to killings causes them to be indifferent in problems of others. Husain(2005) notes that the child adopts the behaviors learnt at tender age. The environment they are exposed to has significant impact to their behavior in future. The unforgiving surrounding contributes to hardening the humanity part of the person. Husain (2005) confirms that the rate of recovery from the disturbing incidence vary depending with the nature of the child.  One, the treatment given after the occurrences is core in regaining the normal state. As it was alluded earlier, the war happening affects psychological health, which can be reverted to normal state by a counselor. The swift action taken by the parent is key. However, if the symptoms are not tamed at early stages, more deplorable conditions could result when the child advance in age (Krippner and McIntyre 120).

 The second element is the age factor. Mohammed (2016) affirms that age of an individual contributes to the ability to tolerate certain degree of challenges. For example, very young children are rarely harmed by the effects of war since they fail to understand the happening. At an age of around 5 years, the child is able to debunk and understand threats (Singer 123). This age is much more vulnerable than the tender aged ones. Sooner or later, the children affected by warfare are able to recover depending with the reception they receive from the older people. Singer (2010)argues that the embracement given to the victim dictates the speed of recovery. Although there are medicines to relax the minds after fatal experiences, psychological counselling has more fulfilling effects. The challenges of using chemical medicines is their side effect after medication ceases to work. Improved technology and ever chaotic society has drastically continued to increase the number of orphaned children (Walton et al. 102). Additionally, migration of people to other nations has been witnessed. As people seek for peaceful situations, other countries hosting the migrants have been stretched further in terms of budgets to sustain them. United Kingdom has absorbed migrants from war affected nations as a strategy to console them. How best to respond to the psychological effects of war in children guides on the right measure to address the issue.

Despite horrific exposure to the atrocities, studies reveal that managing the trauma is dependent on the society surrounding the children who are affected. According to Singer (2010), the sense of adult protection can give the affected child less time to recover. A research conducted by Husain (2005) indicates that the severity of the psychological effects depends on the proximity of the attack occurrence. Shapra (2013) conducted a survey in Iraq after chemical bomb attack. The attack aimed the Iraq civilian which left scores of people suffering as well as fatalities.  The respondents consisted of 94 children and the results indicated 94% of them had lethal psychological problem (Waugh et al. 168).Husain (2005) affirms that apart from the primary cause of stressors, other secondary aftermath continues to impact the affected people. War cases results to lose of properties as well as shelters.

According to the UN, the number of refugees in the world is increasing due to wars in unstable nations (Waugh et al. 175. Although efforts to maintain peace are identified to cool the effects on children, full recovery is not achieved. For example, a child feels depressed when he or she cannot be able to access proper medication, shelter and even food (Walton et al. 749). According to the WHO, more than a million children in Iraq could be in dire need of clinical assistance due to the experiences of regular attacks(Waugh et al 176). This has been shown to affect their education and social life. It has been speculated about 10% of them require visitation of an expert to help them (Waugh et al. 167). A simple conceptualization is that affected children coup with the situation and heals faster. They are able to get natural immunization and adapt faster than adults. This is questionable and has not been proofed by any research work. Continuous process of keeping peace is the solution to permanent healing.

Singer (2010) identifies fundamental aspects that determines the degree of war effects on children. One is the attitude of the parental figure in the family. He cites that parents have the sole responsibility to ensure their children are safe. Their reaction serves as the leading example to the young one who look upon them as role models. If the parent depicts negative attitude, the child is able to pick the same (Betancourt and Khan 328). Irrespective of the warring situation, the head in the family should always dispel fear through active representation. Children are good in imitating what they see from their parents. Second, intensity of the conflict contribute to the level of psychological effects. There is a linear relationship between the two where the longevity of the war gets imprinted in the minds of the young ones (Dokkedahl and Oboke 124). The shorter the period of violence, the faster it gets eroded away from the mind. It is worth noting that prolonged violence devastates virtually all activities that runs the economy. Poverty sets in and scarcity of basic good becomes evident. The third element of consideration is cultural macrosystem. Singer(2010) defines this as the attitude of the society members towards violence cases. The plan adopted to solve issues can help the affected persons recover. A community which perceives indifferences as the best option to arrive at long lasting solutions benefits its citizens.

A study conducted by Gaza Mental Health Programme in Palestine indicated that both adults and children were affected by the war cases (Husain 235). A group of 41 young children aged 10-19 years revealed that about 37% of them suffered acute post traumatic syndrome while the rest showed mild cases. The information gathered from the parents reported drop in school performance among their children. They also affirmed aggravation of weird behaviors which were attributed to the exposure of violent cases. Moreover, the refugees outnumbered the non-refugees in Palestine. Thirty eight percent of the interviewed parents blamed the media for presenting killing videos on air. TV stations contributed to weakening the minds of the young people, who opted to remain indoors (Krippner and McIntyre 234). Inculcation of fearful spirit is still evident in the lives of the children, who fears for their lives. Others cited beating and killings of the neighbors increased their torture. Singer (2010) affirms that the population in Palestine still blames the government and health bodies for failing to support their psychological health.  In a series of studies by Mohammed (2016), the most prevalent traumas emanated from the witness of mass funerals, careless shootings and dead strangers all over the streets. The most affected group were girls.

Improving Mental Health for War Affected Children

After the traumatizing incidences which are presented during the war, people are left scared and injured in their minds. They fail to understand the next cause of action. Some are permanently affected while others are able to sustain the external pressure. Husain (2005) notes that the imperative action is needed to avert the morbidity rates due to depressing conditions. Singer (2010) details some of the ways that can be employed to help rejuvenate the power of the affected children. He says that young people are the pillars of the economy in future dates. If their minds are corrupted by deadly actions at the background levels, they might propagate the same hence impeding economic growth (Shapra 2013). Internal disruptions from within could prevent them from achieving their goals. Rummens and Seat (2003) cites that alleviation of fear is the first strategy which can be employed to heal their dreadful thoughts. One way is through narrative therapy.

According to Singer (2010) it is a form of psychotherapy which aims to help an individual to identify his or her skills and values. The main purpose of this is to allow individuals to internalize their capabilities to confront challenging situations. Therapist presents themselves to control the conversation, with the victim being a co-author.Shapra (2013) confirms that therapist assist the person to create the story of his or her own by focusing on the past. They jointly create a new perspective of life by utilizing the strengths of the victim. It is identification process which separates the person from the problems they are facing at that moment.Consequently, asylum seeking process by far boost the mental health for the victims (Waugh et al. 172). Asylum is granted to people who presents a well-founded fear of a non-peaceful condition in the country of origin. The people granted this asylum are allowed to settle and works in the host country without return to the mother land.

Eliminating ties and strict policies concerning the asylum should be enacted (Walton et al. 1997). It enables the children to heal mentally, since they are received by welcoming people. Living in a country where freedom of movement and association is guaranteed kicks away the past memories. It has been described as one of the most fulfilling process. The support given to the new entrants into the country revives their significance in the world (Betancourt and Khan 320).Additionally, the government efforts to allow reconciliation is a milestone towards accommodation in the society. The warring nations or even communities should aim to strike an agreement to end the battle. Dokkedahl and Oboke (2015) asserts that the best way to end wrangles is through listening to each other, with a third nonpartisan party to make the decision. This is achieved by collecting views on both parties and tabling them for discussion. By allowing the law of inclusivity to take place, little complications would be witnessed. Children would grow loving their nations by setting an example of solving conflicts (Husain 246). On top of this, parents and society at large have a responsibility to develop the right attitude to the young people.

 Krippner and McIntyre (2003) asserts that the people in direct contact with the children can completely erase the bad memories or even advance them further. The type of information the children watch in the media dictates the speed of recovery. Forgetting the past and trying to show the young ones about the future could lead to great outcome (Mohammed 124). The society has the responsibility of creating a new story, filled with optimism and bright future for the young people. Social support is another instrumental attachment that can be utilized to produce meaningful results in recovering process. Singer (2010) identifies three types of social support which are emotional, instrumental support and informational. Boys and Girls respond differently to the type of support offered. Rummens and Seat (2003) notes that girls are easy to forget things since they talk out their problems easily. This is contrary to boys, who confine their issues within themselves. Identification of the right procedure to help out the victim is sought to be adopted.

What Health Professionals can do to Improve Mental Health Outcomes?

Combination of effort from the interested stakeholders and the mental health professional could reduce the cases of trauma victims. As professional, the medical staff are expected to design counselling sessions which would aim to understand the stories of the victims. Walton et al. (1997) affirms that conversation with the affected person guides on the best way to help them out of the situation. Some children who could have witnessed the horrible incidences might end up depressed if proper measures are not taken in advance. There are medications provided in the hospitals to relax the mind and activate forgetting some issues. Waugh et al. (2007) argues that the psychological counselling has more effectual benefits since it has no side effects. Most of the cases presented in health centers are bypassed or confused to other diseases. Health professionals should act by engaging the patients to understand more about the problem (Shapra 126). This could be achieved through asking for past experiences about the patient hence guide to settling on final decision. Essentially, organizing forums for people affected by the consequences of war could greatly heal the suffering children. Consolidating them in a common place to give them hope of future ignites their minds to forget past things.


The literature was conducted from the peer reviewed journals and books dated 1997 to 2016. The choice of research papers was conducted based on the topic under discussion. Emphasis was laid on authors who had discussed the topic in details and critiqued various work done by other researchers in the same field. Moreover, papers written in English were considered to fulfill the objectives of the research. The first reading involved integration of victims of war with increase of refugees. The second reading correlated various opinions concerning improvement of mental health. There was no much pressure laid on ethical considerations since the research involved secondary data. Direct interview was not applicable and therefore the selected literature met research criteria.


The information gathered from the various literatures depicts that children exposure to high degree of violence have prolonged effects. However, the authors argue that different genders are not affected in the same magnitude. Girls stand a high chance of immediate effects. Their trauma is short-lived (Singer 125). On the other hand, boys are difficult to let things go and hence they have a long term effects. It was further noted that the various strategies which can work to mitigate the mental problems are non-invasive in nature. Psychological counselling plays a vital role in subsiding the suffering of the victims (Shapra 124).

One detrimental effects which stood out significantly from the literature reviewed was separation of social life in the child’s life. The exposure to stressor creates a state of fear that impedes mental development for the child. It was also evident that concentration and class performance among the children who had an experience in the warfare deteriorated with time. The authors affirm that the age of the individual determined how well they recovered from the atrocities. The work also details some of symptoms that were reported by the victims. One is low self –esteem (Walton et al. 700). This is the feeling of perceiving oneself inferior compared to others. Especially in social places such as churches and schools, the secondary sources indicates lack of free interaction. The second symptom which was largely cited isnightmares (Waugh et al. 169). The bad memories made the young ones lack sleep.

 Additionally, high emotional characteristics were also quoted as the indicating factor for the affected people. It was observed that measures to curb the proliferations of mental problems could be the best way to help out the children. Both mental health professional and other stakeholder have a part to play in restoring the future society (Rummens and Seat 202). Parents in particular have direct contact with their children hence tasked to portray the right attitude regarding the events of war. Society at large is held responsible for the wellbeing of such victims.

Discussion and Conclusion

The data suggest that social life was impacted by war more than any other. Categorically, factors such as poverty and separation from loved ones emerge the highest stressors. Additionally, death of parents is seen to haunt the young ones who are left lonely with no help from anywhere else. It has been learned that the intrinsic intelligence of the children was the baseline to estimate the extent of the damages caused by the war exposure. The parents especially mothers who are close to the children reported deteriorating performance in academics. Furthermore, children were identified to develop peculiar emotional behaviors such as hostility. Adding to this, irresponsibility in class works was witnessed. It was speculated that the victims did not see any need to study because they had witnessed lives taken away in their sight. Humble learning environment lacked in various schools.

There exist a high correlation between perceived intelligence and trauma management. An open advice to parents and teachers is to educate the young ones on the real nature of the world. They should be trained to handle challenging situations such as civil wars in advance, which would reduce threats in lives of the children. Help from others such as family members has occupied a bigger milestone in helping the affected persons heal. The literature elucidate the importance of intelligence and education among the parents in helping cushion effects of war. Intelligence should be the variable to be incorporated in future research about mental health of children exposed in war.