Children Psychologically Scarred by Israeli Palestinian War

War is hell, and not just for the adults who typically fight it. A recent study notes that Palestinian and Israeli children are being psychologically scarred by the violence that surrounds them. “Violence is a contagious disease just like smallpox and typhoid, and children are particularly susceptible to catching it,” warns the project’s principal investigator, psychologist Rowell Huesmann.

Huesmann, who is director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR), highlights the findings of the study, which was presented earlier in summer 2010 at the International Society for Research on Aggression. He notes that “Palestinian children in particular are seeing extraordinary amounts of very disturbing violence in their daily lives.”

Nearly half of Palestinian children ages 11 to 14 report having seen injured or dead Palestinians on stretchers or lying on the ground after an Israeli attack within the past year. A similar number have seen other Palestinians upset because someone they knew or loved had been killed by Israelis.

Israeli children are affected as well, although the percentages are somewhat lower. More than one-quarter of Israeli Jewish children ages 11 to 14 said they had seen other Israelis upset because someone they knew or loved had been killed by Palestinians, and nearly 10 percent said within the past year they had personally seen other injured or dead Israelis who were the victims of Palestinian attacks.

Huesmann calls the exposure to such violence and death “very deleterious,” and as a result, these children are experiencing great psychological damage, including post-traumatic stress disorder and increases in aggressive behaviour inflicted on their peers…

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