Trauma Exposure and Psychological Reactions to Genocide Among Rwandan Children

Senter for Krisepsykologi, Bergen, Hordaland, Norway
Journal of Traumatic Stress (Impact Factor: 2.72). 12/1999; 13(1):3-21. DOI: 10.1023/A:1007759112499
Source: PubMed


A total of 3030 children age 8–19 years from Rwanda was interviewed about their war experiences and reactions approximately 13 months after the genocide that started in April 1994. Rwandan children had been exposed to extreme levels of violence in the form of witnessing the death of close family members and others in massacres, as well as other violent acts. A majority of these children (90%) believed that they would die; most had to hide to survive, and 15% had to hide under dead bodies to survive. A shortened form of the Impact of Event Scale used in a group of 1830 of these children documented high levels of intrusion and avoidance. While children living in shelters were exposed to more trauma, they evidenced less posttraumatic reactions. Analyses showed that reactions were associated with loss, violence exposure, and, most importantly, feeling their life was in danger.

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    • "In situations where the whole society is affected by mass displacement and extensive loss, the fragmentation of the society not only compromises traditional coping mechanisms available to children but also the adult's ability to attend to the children's needs (Dyregrov et al., 2000; Morgos et al., 2007). It is this that is frequently ignored in the literature (McCall, 1999). "
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    ABSTRACT: The magnitude of violence and human loss in conflict settings often exceeds the caring capacity of traditional support systems for orphans. The aim of this study is to understand the developmental context for children experiencing armed conflict, parental loss, extreme poverty, violence and social exclusion in a setting affected by interethnic violence. This article challenges the received wisdom that community reintegration is always better than institutional provision. Using a case study employing interviews, focus groups, workshops and observations, we examined how children's experiences of armed violence and parental loss affected their mental well-being, and their relationships within their community. Emerging findings such as experienced violence and psychological distress were further investigated using a cross-sectional survey design to explore the generalisability or transferability of theories or conclusions drawn from qualitative data. Findings showed that parental loss had a major impact on children's lives in the context of armed violence. Four main outcomes of orphanhood emerged: (i) facing the situation and evading harm (feelings of rejection and stigmatisation); (ii) trauma exposure and mental health effects (associations of orphanhood with adverse mental health outcomes and the number and type of experienced trauma); (iii) dealing with psychological distress (seeking caring connections and decreased feelings of isolation); and (iv) education and acceptance (increasing knowledge, skills and attitude and being respected in their community). We discuss the role that contexts such as armed violence, parental loss and social exclusion play for children's mental well-being and their implications for psychosocial interventions and orphan care in humanitarian settings. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    International Journal of Health Planning and Management 08/2015; DOI:10.1002/hpm.2311 · 0.97 Impact Factor
    • "The resulting overall rate of one or more symptoms of PTSD was 95 % (Neugebauer et al. 2009). Another study conducted at the same time found that 79 % of the children and adolescents interviewed showed moderateto-severe PTSD reactions (Dyregrov et al. 2000). Roughly a decade later, in 2004, a study of 68 Rwandan orphans exposed to extreme levels of violence revealed that 44 % showed evidence of continued PTSD, especially among those who were 8–13 years old during the outbreak of genocide (Schaal and Elbert 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: Can archives help heal and extend the benefit of therapeutic interventions in a post-genocide environment? We sought to probe this question through an uncommon collaborative documentation and research project linking psychology and archival science: Stories for Hope–Rwanda (SFH). This intergenerational dialogue project between youth and elder pairs in post-genocide Rwanda draws upon a collective narrative model from psychology and both community and participatory models from archives. The paper reports on three aspects of this endeavor: (1) description of SFH as a process of dialogue generation and archiving; (2) content analysis of the knowledge post-genocide youth sought from their elders; and (3) a qualitative evaluation of what benefits youth and elder pairs reported 6–12 months after their dialogue session, including how participants made use of a personal copy of their dialogue and their decision making and perceptions on making their dialogues more widely available. Specifically, we wanted to know whether psychological benefits would accrue if the silences about genocide could be breached by intergenerational dialogues and whether audio recordings of the dialogues archived for personal, national, and international use could motivate youths and elders over the hurdle of silence and extend the benefits of the dialogues to others. In contrast to interview-driven genocide testimonies, each youth asked an elder to answer some burning questions about the past. In response, elders were directed to share personal, true, and positively helpful stories from their past experiences. Through these efforts, SFH consciously sought to democratize the creation, control, custody, and access to the archive resulting from the recorded dialogues. Based on our analysis, we found that youth were eager to learn most about the genocide (causes, prevention, and stories of loss and survival), followed by family history, marriage, Rwandan culture, living as an orphan, and strategies for forgiveness and reconciliation. We also found that the archival component of the project significantly contributed to both the motivation for participation and the extent of participants’ healing. We conclude that this approach can be productively expanded to other post-conflict and post-genocide communities where silence about a traumatic past reigns triumphant and undermines the ability of youth to map a positive future.
    Archival Science 10/2014; 14(3-4):275-306. DOI:10.1007/s10502-014-9232-2
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    • "Studies conducted on the most at-risk populations tend to find even higher prevalence than those on the general population. A nation-wide survey conducted on a sample of 3030 young genocide survivors aged 8 to 19 years one year after the genocide (May 1995) showed that the PTSD rate was 54% (Neugebauer et al., 2009; for earlier partial publication of these results see Dyregrov et al., 2000; Jensen et al., 1997). Similarly, Hagengimana et al. (2003; data collected in 2001) found a PTSD prevalence rate of 45.2% in a sample of Rwandan widows who survived the 1994 genocide. "
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    ABSTRACT: Available at: In Rwanda, the annual commemorations of the genocide are associated with an increase in the level of collective traumatic crises whereby many people participating in commemoration activities present various symptoms, including emotional distress and re-experiencing traumatic events of the 1994 genocide. These sudden crises normally last between 30 and 120 minutes and can affect hundreds of people at big commemoration events. They are accompanied by a degree of urgency that disturbs the whole assembly. This article briefly presents an overview of these crises and highlights the results of a study on the effects of a supportive-expression group intervention in the post-crisis period for people who experienced these collective traumatic crises. The study compares the therapeutic progress made by a group of people who participated in a supportive-expression group therapy program as compared to those who did not receive the intervention. The study suggests that the supportive group intervention can improve the overall psychological wellbeing of people who experienced collective traumatic crisis even though it was ineffective for some symptoms.
    08/2014; 2(1). DOI:10.5964/jspp.v2i1.292
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