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Support of former child soldiers in Nepal: How psychosocial wellbeing and function are impacted socioecologically during the reintegration stage following conflict

Morley, Christopher Andrew (2011)
Master's Thesis (75 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Thompson, Nancy J
Committee Members: Lang, Delia L ; Elifson, Kirk ; Kohrt, Brandon A
Research Fields: Health Sciences, Public Health; Psychology, Social; Anthropology, Medical and Forensic
Partnering Agencies: Does not apply (no collaborating organization)
Keywords: child soldier; psychosocial; socioecology; mental health; Nepal; PTSD; posttraumatic stress; public health; education; reintegration; post-conflict; functional impairment; resilience
Program: Rollins School of Public Health, Behavioral Sciences and Health Education
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Background: There is a paucity of evidence for effective interventions to improve the mental health of child soldiers returning home after war. Most approaches emphasize family support and vocational rehabilitation. As war effectively distorts and creates profound change in children's socioecology, this change can affect normal child development, putting them at greater risk psychologically. Many children who participate in conflict often return to their homes only to find new struggles with problematic reintegration and psychological trauma. Research has demonstrated, however, that when a child is provided family and social support, they build greater resilience and show more positive reintegration outcomes, as opposed to those child soldiers with limited to no support.
Objectives: Using multiple theories in a mixed methods approach, we examined how socioecological support affects the psychosocial wellbeing and function of former child soldiers in Nepal.
Methods: We performed thematic analysis of 8 key informant interviews of former child soldiers which then guided bivariate and hierarchical linear regression analyses on a dataset of former child soldiers (n = 142) from 10 districts in Nepal.
Results: Several overarching themes emerged from the interviews, including socioecological impact on how a child soldier manages during reintegration post-conflict, the link between hope and education, and the relationship a child has with his or her peers and daily function. Quantitative measures showed that a child's social ecology accounted for a significant proportion of the variance in hope, function, and PTSD above that accounted for by demographic variables. Specifically, a higher degree of community support was associated with a greater sense of hope, a lower level of peer support was associated with greater levels of functional impairment, and lower levels of community support were associated with higher levels of PTSD.
Conclusions: As the mental health of child soldiers and other children affected by armed conflict are influenced significantly by the degree of social support, especially from peers and family members, post-conflict interventions should consider that fostering peer support, minimizing discrimination, and emphasizing educational programming can have dramatic effects on promoting resilience of reintegrating child soldiers.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Figures & Tables
Introduction 1
Research, Reintegration, & Rehabilitation 3
Theoretical Underpinning 4
Research Hypotheses 9
Literature Review 10
An Overview of Child Soldiers 10
Case Examples Demonstrating Considerations for Child Soldiers Around the World 11
Nepal and The People's War 14
Nepali CAAFAG Pilot Study 15
CAAFAG Mental Health 16
Reintegration 17
The Future of CAAFAG: Where Research Is Going 17
Methods 18
Institutional Review 18
Design 18
Participants 18
Study Instruments 20
Procedure 23
Data Analysis 24
Results 27
Discussion 51
Limitations 55
Recommendations 56
Conclusion 58
References 59


application/pdf Dissertation/Thesis 75 pages (638.6 KB) [Access copy of Dissertation/Thesis]
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