Objective. The war in Bosnia has had a tremendous impact on civilians. Little is known about the impact of modern warfare on children. This survey documents the nature and frequency of war-related experiences among Bosnian children and describes their manifestations of selected psychological sequelae.
Methods. A cross-sectional survey of 364 internally displaced 6- to 12-year-old children and their parents living in central Bosnian collectives was conducted during the war. Parents were surveyed for their children's war experiences; the children were surveyed for war-related distress symptoms.
Results. The children were exposed to virtually all of the surveyed war-related experiences. The majority had faced separations from family, bereavement, close contact with war and combat, and extreme deprivation. The prevalence and severity of experiences were not significantly related to a child's gender, wealth, or age, but were related to their region of residence, with children from the region of Sarajevo having the highest prevalence of experiences. Almost 94% of the children met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed, criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder. Significant life activity affecting sadness and anxiety were reported by 90.6% and 95.5% of the children, respectively. High levels of other symptoms surveyed were also found. Children with greater symptoms had witnessed the death, injury, or torture of a member of their nuclear family, were older, and came from a large city.
Conclusions. The war-related experiences of the children studied were both varied and severe, and were associated with a variety of psychological sequelae. This experience underscores the vulnerability of civilians in areas of conflict and the need to address the effects of war on the mental health of children.