Children's exposure to community and war violence and mental health in four African countries. Academic Article uri icon


  • In this article we review the mental health consequences of children's exposure to community and war violence (ETV) in four African countries: South Africa, Sierra Leone, Gambia and Rwanda. A focus on Africa is particularly pressing because of children's high levels of community and war ETV in countries therein. Regions of Africa present important macro-contexts for understanding children's various types of violence exposure amidst war and economic disadvantage. Findings of the review across 20 quantitative studies from 2004 to 2015 indicate consistent associations between exposure to war and community violence and children's symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and aggression. School climate and family support mitigate these ETV influences upon children: however, more research is needed on the buffering effects of such resources. The effects of war violence are mediated by perceived discrimination in communities post-conflict. We integrate findings across studies to synthesize knowledge on children's ETV in Africa around a model of its correlates, mediators, and moderators in relation to mental health. Emerging research points to avenues for prevention and future inquiry.

published proceedings

  • Soc Sci Med

altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Foster, H., & Brooks-Gunn, J.

citation count

  • 43

complete list of authors

  • Foster, Holly||Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne

publication date

  • January 2015