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Psychological and Scholastic Effects in Adolescent Victims of Ethnic Cleansing

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Abstract

The psychological and scholastic effects in adolescent victims of ethnic cleansing will be explored longitudinally over a period of 10 years. Twenty adolescent refugees between the ages of 5 and 18 who experienced a mass genocide, will be recruited to participate. Participants will be given the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents (DISC); (Shaffer, Fisher, Lucas, Dulcan, & Shwab-Stone, 2000), and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI); (Groth-Marnat, 1990). Adolescents who show symptoms for either/both post traumatic stress syndrome PTSD and/or depression will be asked to consent to further tests and interviews over the following 10 years. The adolescents, who experienced similar acts of genocide, but who currently show no symptoms of either PTSD or depression will also be asked to consent for further tests and interviews every 2 years, for over the following 10 years. The participants will be retested and re-interviewed every 2 years, checking for changes in structural abnormalities, fundamental behavioral changes, mood disorders, academic achievement fluctuations, which will be measured by the adolescent's school records, and an increase or decrease in symptoms of PTSD and/or depression. It is hypothesized that adolescent victims of genocide will demonstrate a high

incidence of PTSD and/or depression, as well as a decrease in academic achievement and educational pursuits for at least up to 10 years later.

Psychological and Scholastic Effects in Adolescent Victims of Ethnic Cleansing

The lives of many adolescent refugees have been seriously disrupted by the trauma of war and cultural uprooting (Watters C, 2001). As a result, refugee children may exhibit signs of major psychological distress (Kinzie, Sack, Angell, Clarke, & Roth, 1989). Studies conducted have demonstrated a high correlation between genocidal trauma (i.e., torture, atrocities, and forced resettlement) and the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychological disorders (e.g., depression, dysthemia, anxiety disorders) in adolescent victims (Becker, Weine, Vojvoda, & Mcglashan, 1999). Since research on North American children and adolescents has found a relationship between emotional problems and trouble at school, young refugees, who run a high risk of experiencing mental health problems, might also be expected to have serious academic problems (Weinberg et al. 1989). The long-term effects of severe war trauma suffered during childhood have yet to be completely defined but have important theoretical implications for developmental psychologists, as well as clinical implications for caregivers (Sack, Clark, & Seeley, 1996). Longitudinal studies of war-traumatized children followed through crucial developmental points are in short supply. This study intends to provide information addressing this issue in a group of adolescent victims who have recently experienced a mass genocide to be assessed every 2 years for a 10-year period. The Proposed study will measure if PTSD, depression, and scholastic achievement is significantly higher or lower in increments of every 2 years for 10 years after the initial traumatic event. It is hypothesized that adolescent victims of genocide, which according to Merriam-Webster (1993) is the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, or ethnic group who do not receive specific treatment (i.e., counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy) will demonstrate a high

incidence of PTSD and/or depression, as well as a decrease in academic achievement and educational pursuits for at least up to 10 years later.

Several studies (Sack, Seeley, and Clark 1997: Becker, Weine, Vojvoda, and Mcglashan 1999 : Rousseau, and Drapeau 2000 have explored the effects of genocide on adolescent victims. Sack, Seeley, and clark (1997) examined Khmer adolescent refugees and measured their prevalence of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while comparing generational symptoms of PTSD in the adolescent's parental guardian/s. This study was conducted approximately 6 to 10 years after the adolescent refugees had resettled in the United States. The diagnosis of PTSD was based on the DSM-III-R criteria. Symptom data was collected with the adolescent section of the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents (DICA). For comparability, the same version of this instrument was given to the parents. Results indicated that PTSD as a result of massive war trauma appears to be prevalent in both generations (parent / offspring) of the Khmer refugees. In regards to the proposed study, this review supports the proposed hypothesis that experiencing war trauma increases the risk of PTSD in adolescent victims.

Similarly, Becker et al.,(1999) evaluated the psychological trauma in adolescents who have lived through a mass genocide, and have reestablished themselves among society. All participants were ethnic muslims and in between the ages of 13 to 19 years. All participants were involved in the initial study, which was established in 1993 with a Bosnian family who had just resettled in the United States after surviving acts of ethnic cleansing. Participants were evaluated within the first year after resettlement, and assessed again one year later. The participants were asked to complete systematic, trauma-focused, clinical interviews that measured the severity or presence of PTSD. Results indicated that the participants who had initially been diagnosed with symptoms of PTSD no longer met DSM-III-R criteria in the follow-up study, which was conducted one year later. Only one participant, who initially was not diagnosed with PTSD, had symptoms only in the follow-up study. This study explores similar aspects as the proposed study, but is much smaller in scale, in respects to participants, and lacks elements that the proposed study intends to report (i.e., longitudinal research on the prevalence of not only PTSD, but also depression and scholastic achievement).

Along the lines of scholastic achievement, Rousseau, and Drapeau (2000) investigated the relationship of emotional disturbance and pre- and post-migration environment to the scholastic achievement of adolescent refugees of different cultural backgrounds. The target population consisted of Central American and Cambodian teenagers attending Montreal-area schools with large numbers of students of different ethnic origins and an especially high proportion of Central Americans or cambodians.

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