War experiences and psychotic symptoms among former child soldiers in Northern Uganda: the mediating role of post-war hardships-the WAYS Study

Kennedy Amone-P'Olak, Balaam Nyeko Otim, George Opio, Emilio Ovuga, Richard Meiser-Stedman

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Psychotic symptoms have been associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and war experiences. However, the relationships between types of war experiences, the onset and course of psychotic symptoms, and post-war hardships in child soldiers have not been investigated. This study assessed whether various types of war experiences contribute to psychotic symptoms differently and whether post-war hardships mediated the relationship between war experiences and later psychotic symptoms. In an ongoing longitudinal cohort study (the War-Affected Youths Survey), 539 (61% male) former child soldiers were assessed for psychotic symptoms, post-war hardships, and previous war experiences. Regression analyses were used to assess the contribution of different types of war experiences on psychotic symptoms and the mediating role of post-war hardships in the relations between previous war experiences and psychotic symptoms. The findings yielded ‘witnessing violence’, ‘deaths and bereavement’, ‘involvement in hostilities’, and ‘sexual abuse’ as types of war experiences that significantly and independently predict psychotic symptoms. Exposure to war experiences was related to psychotic symptoms through post-war hardships (β = .18, 95% confidence interval = [0.10, 0.25]) accounting for 50% of the variance in their relationship. The direct relation between previous war experiences and psychotic symptoms attenuated but remained significant (β = .18, 95% confidence interval = [0.12, 0.26]). Types of war experiences should be considered when evaluating risks for psychotic symptoms in the course of providing emergency humanitarian services in post-conflict settings. Interventions should consider post-war hardships as key determinants of psychotic symptoms among war-affected youths.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-167
Number of pages13
JournalSouth African Journal of Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015

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