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March 2015

The Intergenerational Effect of War

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(3):199-200. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.2669

The exposure of children to violence is widespread. More than 1 billion children and adolescents today live in regions affected by armed conflict.1 Even in more developed areas, young people are increasingly exposed to violent actions, images, and settings.

To what extent does exposure to violence scar children? There are 2 common perspectives. The first is the idea that “violence begets violence” and that children exposed to violence at a young age will grow up to be more violent adults.2 The second is the “resilience hypothesis,” which asserts that coping in the face of violence is possible with the right support, thus mitigating its effect on quality-of-life outcomes.3 A deeper understanding of these perspectives on the intergenerational effect of war is central to the work of health care professionals around the world.

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