Exposure to Violence and its Effects on Israeli and Palestinian Children: Scholarly Analysis

Between 2007 and 2010, a team of researchers from Israel, Palestine, and the United States conducted three waves of interviews with children and families living in Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Researchers evaluated the degree of the children’s exposure to violence (both through personal experience and media consumption) and levels of post-traumatic stress and aggression—both common results of such exposure. The researchers asked near-identical questions children across ethno-national categories (e.g., had the children witnessed a member of their own ethno-national faction harmed by a member of the opposing faction?). They adapted some questions to each groups particular experiences—for example, asking Palestinian children about time spent under military curfew and Israeli children about time spent in bomb shelters. Finally, the researchers hypothesized factors that could affect children’s psychological resilience to exposure to violence—including feelings of self-worth, level emotional investment in academics, parents’ mental health, and parents’ parenting styles.

The researchers observed that Palestinian children experience more political violence than their Israeli peers (a trend that, the researchers point out, would have been even more pronounced had the study not intentionally oversampled from Israelis living in high-violence areas such as the occupied West Bank and communities abutting the borders with Lebanon and Gaza). They also concluded that children who have more exposure to violence—political or otherwise—were generally more likely to behave in an aggressive or violent manner themselves (although this trend was significantly less pronounced in certain age groups and/or gender categories).

The researchers concluded, moreover, that children in all ethno-national categories were significantly more resistant to PTSD if they were engaged in school (i.e. earned high grades), thought highly of themselves, and were raised according to a “positive” parenting style.

Full citations:

Paul Boxer et. al., “Exposure to Political Conflict and Violence and Posttraumatic Stress in Middle East Youth: Protective Factors,” Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 41.4 (2012): 402-416.

Paul Boxer et. al., “Exposure to Violence Across the Social Ecosystem and the Development of Aggression: A Test of Ecological Theory in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” Child Development [print edition not yet published] (2012).

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