- Published on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 14:33
A new study conducted jointly by a consortium of Palestinian, Israeli and American researchers from Michigan and Rutgers universities, reveals that children in the region become more violent amid the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The researchers found that children's exposure to ethnic-political violence correlates with their own violent behavior at home, school and in local communities. It also negatively affects their psychological health.
"The most important finding is that simple exposure to violence results in very substantial increases in both the risk of behaving aggressively against your peers in the in-group, and a significant increase in the risk for developing PTS symptoms—anxiety, depression, and so on," -- Rowell Huesmann, director of the Research Center on Group Dynamics at the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan said in a comment for the institute's website.
"We expected we'd find some effects, but they're really quite substantial. We were particularly surprised by how much war violence leads to increased aggression by youth directed at their own peers." – Huesmann added.
Young children (aged 8) are particularly prone to become more aggressive as a result of greater exposure to violence.
The researchers agreed that the best solution to tackle the problem would be to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. However, as political realities currently preclude the possibility of ending the conflict, the researchers argue that it is critical for the leaders to understand at least the negative impact that wars and conflicts have on young people.
"Children are at a critical period where their personalities are being molded," Huesmann said. "We're talking about how their beliefs, their social cognitions, their emotional reactions are changed. And once these cognitions become crystallized, it's very difficult to dissolve them."
Funded by the US Institutes of Health, the study used a sample of 450 Israeli Arab Children, 600 Palestinian children (64% from the West Bank and 36% from the Gaza Strip), aged 8, 11 and 14.
Between the years 2007 and 2010, the children were interviewed at three different times. Questions were also asked to their parents.
10% of Palestinian children, 7% of Israeli Jewish children and 3% of Israeli Arab children said that they had a relative killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As many as 55% of Palestinian children experienced death of a friend or acquaintance as a result of the conflict, the data revealed. Among Israeli Jews the figure ran at 13%, among Israeli Arab children – 3%.
The study showed that there was a significant spike in school violence – from 6.4% in 2007 to 11.7% in 2010.
It was also revealed that domestic violence in Palestinian and Israeli households increased over the years. In 2007 there were 51.8% of violence reported, as compared to 58.7% in 2010.