Sri Lankan children affected by war, tsunami, daily stressors: Study

Two studies on children in Sri Lanka, who survived the 2004 tsunami and ongoing civil war, have found that it is not these stressful events alone that contributed to the youths’ psychological health, but also daily stressors like domestic violence that are exacerbated by traumatic events and continue after the disasters.

The studies appear in a special section on children and disaster in the July/August issue of the journal Child Development.

The first study, by researchers at California State University, Los Angeles, Harvard School of Public Health, and Claremont Graduate University, looked at more than 400 Sri Lankan youths ages 11 to 20 who survived the tsunami.

Researchers who work in areas where people have been harmed by disasters often focus solely on the impact of direct exposure to the disaster, but this study argues that it is important to consider the role of everyday stressors that continue after a disaster.

The study also found that while war and disaster have had a direct effect on the youths’ psychological health, poverty, family violence, and lack of safe housing also represent major sources of continuing stress.

“By making sure not to miss the importance of ongoing stressors in youths’ daily lives, our study highlights the need for holistic policies and programs that focus on reducing these current stressors,” said Gaithri A. Fernando, Associate Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, who led the study.

The second study was conducted by researchers at Bielefeld University, the University of Minnesota, the Vivo Foundation, and the University of Konstanz; Bielefeld University and the University of Konstanz are in Germany.

This study looked at almost 1,400 Tamil children aged nine to 15 living at home or in a temporary shelter for refugees.

Children in this study had been affected by both armed conflict and a natural disaster, and many also coped with domestic violence.

It also found that all of the adverse experiences contributed significantly to the children’s difficulties adapting. (ANI)