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Child Abuse & Neglect 29 (2005) 3143

The long-term effects of war experiences on childrens


depression in the Republic of Croatia

Andreja Brajsa-Zganec
Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar, Marulicev trg 19/1, p.p. 277, 10 000 Zagreb, Croatia
Received 26 February 2003; received in revised form 6 July 2004; accepted 8 July 2004
Available online 8 January 2005

Abstract
Objective: The aim of the study was to investigate whether different levels of depressive symptoms in early
adolescent boys and girls could be predicted on the basis of war experiences, perceived available social support
(instrumental support, support to self-esteem, belonging and acceptance) and extraversion.
Methods: The sample consisted of 583 children ages 12 to 15 years; 283 children were displaced from different
parts of Croatia for a period of approximately three and a half years. The following instruments were administered:
Questionnaire on Childrens Stressful and Traumatic War Experiences, Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale,
Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, and Interpersonal Support Evaluation List.
Results: Regression analyses showed that more war experiences were related to more depressive symptoms for boys
only. The greater extent of perceived available social support for boys (instrumental support, support to self-esteem,
belonging and acceptance) related to fewer depressive symptoms. For girls, perceived instrumental support and
self-esteem were related to fewer depressive symptoms. Predictors in the boys sample accounted for 35% of the
variance in the results on the depression scale, and 27% in the girls sample.
Conclusions: We conclude that boys suffer more from the long-term effects of war than girls. In situations where
children cannot be shielded from stressful events, such as war, a greater level of perceived social support is related
to fewer depressive symptoms both for boys and girls in early adolescence.
2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: War experiences; Social support; Depression; Boys and girls

Corresponding author.

0145-2134/$ see front matter 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2004.07.007

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Introduction
This paper presents the results of an investigation on the long-term consequences of the war in Croatia
on children exposed to different levels of war violence. Research literature focusing on the impact of
traumatic war experiences is of limited scope. There is not much research on the consequences of war on
children or on children growing up under the influence of political violence. There is research that has
focused on the experiences of children in the Second World War (Brander, 1941; Freud & Burlingham,
1973), during the Holocaust (Epstein, 1979; Krell, 1985), in the Gulf War (Ahmad, Mohamed, & Ameen,
1998), in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (Garbarino & Kostelny, 1996; Hoffman, Levy-Shiff, & Ushpiz,
1993; Kostelny & Garbarino, 1994; Punamaki, 1988), in Kuwait (Nader, Pynoos, Fairbanks, Al-Ajeel,
& Al-Asfour, 1993), in Mozambique and Uganda (Dodge & Raundalen, 1987; Raundalen, Dyregrov,
& Bugge, 1990), in Cambodia (Kinize, Sack, Angell, Clarke, & Ben, 1989), and in Salvador (Walton,
Nuttall, & Vazquez Nuttall, 1997).
Research on the position of children during war shows that in comparison to the whole population,
children are the most jeopardized group. According to Macksoud, Dyregrov, and Raundalen (1993),
childrens war experiences include the following: violent death of a parent, witnessing the killing of close
family members, separation from parents and displacement, terror attacks, kidnapping and life threat,
participation in violent acts, bombardment and shelling, witnessing parental fear reactions, physical
injuries and handicaps as well as extreme poverty and deprivation.
Based on research of childrens reactions to stressors, such as natural and technological disasters,
accidents, abuse and criminal activities (Pynoos & Eth, 1986; Pynoos et al., 1987; Terr, 1983; Yule,
Udwin, & Murdoch, 1990), Terr (1991) divided all the trauma-stress reactions of children into two
rough categories: Type I and Type II childhood traumas. Beside characteristics common to most cases
of childhood trauma, Type I traumas include some specific features. These features refer to: strongly
visualized or otherwise repeatedly perceived memories, repetitive behaviors, trauma-specific fears and
changes in attitudes toward people, aspects of life and the future as well as features specific to variable,
multiple, or long-standing traumas. Type II traumas are often manifested through absence of feeling, a
sense of rage, or unremitting sadness, and may be diagnosed in childhood as conduct disorders, attention
deficit disorders, depression or dissociative disorders. Childrens trauma and stress-reactions induced by
war events have all the predispositions of Type II trauma, because children are exposed to prolonged and
repeated direct as well as indirect effects of war-related horrors. War events can have both short- and longterm effects (Gordon & Wraith, 1993; Macksoud et al., 1993). The short-term stress/traumatic effects of
war events on children refer to intrapersonal repetitions of the experience, fears and insecurities, emotional
changes, regressed and disorganized behavior, precocious awareness, confusion and disorientation. All
these effects are clearly related to a type of experienced traumatic event and depend upon the childs age.
The long-term stress/traumatic effects of war events on children may exist even for several years after the
war has ended. Long-term war effects can be characterized by deviations in child development, changes
in personality and identity, school failure, chronic problems in peer relations, poor physical health, a
pessimistic view of the future, etc.
One of the long-term effects of war on children is the manifestation of depressive symptoms (Ajdukovic,
1998; Kinize et al., 1989; Preiss & Newman, 1995). Many investigations after the mid-1970s found that
depressive symptoms in children and adolescents are similar to those found in adults. Depression affects
all areas of child function including behavioral, emotional, somatic, and cognitive domains. Depression
in children and adolescents is expressed as a cluster of symptoms that may include anhedonia, lowered


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33

self-esteem, social withdrawal, fatigue, impaired school performance, crying spells, sleeping and eating
disturbances, and self-destructive impulses (American Psychiatric Association, 1987). The etiology of
depressive disorders in childhood and adolescence is complex, and models of depression can be divided
into two basic categories: biological and psychosocial. Depression involves the interaction of environmental factors and biological factors. Environmental factors include familial, interpersonal, extrafamilial
events, and settings as well as catastrophic and traumatic events (Reynolds, 1994). Thus, one of the
environmental factors related to depression in youngsters is a lack of social support.
The war in the Republic of Croatia started in 1991 when Croatia defended the armed attack of the
Yugoslav army. Brutal war devastated a larger part of Croatia. Towns, villages, schools, and hospitals
were destroyed; many families not only lost their homes, but also their traditional family and community.
More than half a million people were displaced in the Republic of Croatia or become refugees in other
European countries. At the end of 1991, 15% of the entire Croatian population had to leave their homes
c, Raboteg-Sari
c, & Brajsa-Zganec,

(Saki
1993). In 1993, out of all displaced persons in the Republic of
Croatia, 35% were children and youth under the age of 19 (Hirsl, 1994). Since 1996, displaced persons
have had the opportunity to return to the formerly occupied areas, and this return is still ongoing.
War experiences among children in Croatia ranged from mild to severe stress or serious trauma according to their level of exposure to war events (Ajdukovic, 1998; Franc & Kuterovac-Jagodic, 1997;

Kuterovac, Dyregrov, & Stuvland, 1994; Zganec


& Brajsa-Zganec,
1997). Children who lived in parts of
Croatia (e.g., near the Serbian border) that were heavily attacked, suffered for a prolonged period of time.
Many of their family members or friends were injured and/or killed, or children were separated from their
parents while forced to leave their homes. Many of them also witnessed the torture or death of a family
member. Although some families lived in parts of the country relatively safe from military attacks, they
also experienced life in bomb shelters during air raid attacks, and they were exposed to information about
war through the media.
Studies in Croatia and later on in Bosnia and Herzegovina although scarce revealed short-term psychosocial reactions in children and youth. During the war in Croatia, children reported intrusive images
and thoughts as well as avoidance reactions, whereas displaced children show significantly more of these
reactions and severe posttraumatic reactions (Franc & Kuterovac-Jagodic, 1997; Kuterovac et al., 1994;

Zganec
& Brajsa-Zganec,
1997). Research on children wounded during the war in Croatia showed that
manifestations of PTSD were related to the degree of disability, social circumstances, and family situation (Kocijan-Hercigonja, Rijavec, Jones, & Remeta, 1996). Other studies indicated many psychological
problems and conduct disorders in displaced children in Croatia, and those who were refugees (Ekblad,
1993; Kocijan-Hercigonja, Rijavec, Marusic, & Hercigonja, 1998). The immediate effects of war events
were evident among boys and girls, but more pronounced in girls than boys (Dyregrov, Kuterovac, &
Barath, 1996).
Social support is a complex transactional process that is influenced by the childrens personalies as
well as their social environment. Vaux (1988), for example, claims that extraversion, social skills, network
orientation, irrational beliefs on the one hand, and family history, social roles, environmental demands on
the other hand, play a very important part in the process of social support. Eysenck and Eysenck (1975)
define neuroticism-extraversion through a dimensional system, describing a typical extravert as a sociable
person, who likes parties, has many friends, needs to have people to talk to, takes chances and is generally
an impulsive individual, and typical introvert as a quiet, retiring sort of person, introspective, fond of
books rather than people; reserved and distant except to intimate friends. Stressful events cause worries
and concerns to the individual, influencing changes in both on individuals personality and the social

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surroundings. Thus, processes of social support can alleviate the effects of different stressors, such as war
stressors. The influence of social support on psycho-social adjustment is a complex process depending
on a series of factors.
Some models, theories and investigations show that parents as well as other persons from the childs
environment, have an important role in providing children with social support in war conditions. The
ecological model is an integrative model of understanding the impact of war on children (Elbedour,
ten Bensel, & Bastien, 1993), which suggests four important dimensions: the individual, the family, the
community and the culture. Walton et al. (1997) utilized a similar ecological model to study the impact
of war on children. Clearly, ecological factors can help in understanding the effects of risk events on the
development of the child. Garbarino, Dubow, Kostelny, and Pardo (1992) used the ecological model in
understanding the negative consequences of exposure to violence in children.
When using the ecological model as the theoretical framework in investigating war experiences of
children, it is necessary to pay special attention to general and specific factors. These factors refer, among
other things, to the relationships between the child and parents, that is presence or absence of parents and
parents capacity to provide children with security and support. The influence of these factors depends on
the childs age, socio-economic circumstances to which child is exposed during the war, and especially
the potential cumulative effect of certain negative factors (biological, psychological and social factors).
In comparison to previous research which examined immediate or short-term influence of war experiences on depressive symptoms in childhood, in this study the primary aim was to investigate long-term
effects of war in Croatia on boys as well as girls perception of social support, and manifestation of
depressive symptoms. The aim of the study was to investigate whether different levels of depressive
symptoms in early adolescent boys and girls can be predicted on the basis of war experiences, perceived
available social support (instrumental support, support to self-esteem, belonging and acceptance) and extraversion. Previous research dealing with depressive symptoms in children did not encompass the above
variables, but we hypothesized that war experiences will have negative effects on childrens depression,
even 3 21 years after children were exposed to war events. Also, based on the previous research we expected
that adolescents will manifest less depressive symptoms if there is a greater the level of social support.

Method
Sample
The sample consisted of 583 children (Table 1), both boys (N = 298) and girls (N = 285), with ages
between 12 and 15 years (median = 13 years and 8 months) from 38 elementary schools in Zagreb (the
Table 1
Sample
Boys

Girls

Total

Displaced children in Zagreb


Residents (Zagreb)

144
154

139
146

283
300

Total

298

285

583


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35

capital of Croatia). Zagreb was chosen because most displaced children in Croatia came to this city. This
study included both displaced and resident 7th and 8th grade children at elementary schools throughout
Zagreb. The displaced children in this study are children who were displaced from their homes in occupied
parts of Croatia at the time of investigation (spring 1995). Of all displaced children who attended schools
in Zagreb, 25% were included in this investigation, that is all displaced children who were in 7th and
8th grade at that time. The local children were chosen as participants for this study from the same
classroom as displaced children, and they were matched to displaced children by chance. From every
class the same number of local and displaced children was included in research. Total sample consisted
of 300 resident children, and 283 displaced children from different parts of Croatia. Displaced children,
at the time of this study were living out of their home for a period of approximately 3 21 years, and
during that period they were living in the same town, and attending same schools as resident children.
The greatest difference between these two groups of children was in the amount of war events they
experienced. Results obtained from both groups of children were treated together with the purpose to
include in the study range of children war experiences that will be as wide as possible. Refugee children
who came to Zagreb from other republics of the former Yugoslavia were not included in this study. The
educational level of their parents was estimated on a scale ranging from 1 (not completely elementary
school) to 5 (college education), and the mean was M = 3.27 for mothers (SD = 1.00) and M = 3.50 for
fathers (SD = 1.01).
Measures
The Questionnaire on Childrens Stressful and Traumatic War Experiences (RSTI) (Barath et al., 1993
in Vizek-Vidovic & Arambasic, 1994) encompasses 20 traumatic war experiences (see Table 2). The
items described general war events and bomb shelter experiences, loss of home and being a refugee,
victimization of family members, witnessing victimization and personal victimization (e.g., I experienced air raid alerts or general alerts; I saw how someone got injured; Shooting was close
to where I stayed). Computed principal component analysis did not show clear component structure, detected in some previous research (Vizek-Vidovic & Arambasic, 1994). Thirty judges (psychologists, medical doctors and teachers) estimated to what degree each event is harmful in terms of
the childs well-being on a 5-point Likert scale (0 = not at all harmful for the child to 4 = strongly
harmful for the child), and their average estimation was used as a weight for each experienced
event. For each child, the total war experience score was computed as a sum of the weighted number of experienced events (average estimation of 30 judges for 4 items was 2; for 6 items was 3;
and for 10 items was 4; thus if child experienced all 20 harmful events her/his weighted result is
equal 66see Table 2). In this way, the total range of scores on this scale was from 0 to 66, and
Cronbachs alpha coefficient was .88. These procedures have been explained in detail in the literature (e.g., Goodyer, 1988; Johnson, 1986), and it was used because the range of the childrens responses on the scale of experienced war events was reduced and resulted in lower variability of the
results.
The concept of social support was assessed with the Interpersonal Support Evaluation List (ISEL)
(Cohen & Hoberman, 1983). A verbally simplified and shortened version of the ISEL scale with 31

items was used (Brajsa-Zganec,


1997). Children were required to mark on a 4-point scale (1 = strongly
disagree to 4 = strongly agree) their degree of agreement with statements describing various situations
in the childs life (e.g., I know someone who would loan me money so I could go to the cinema;

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Table 2
The Questionnaire on Childrens Stressful and Traumatic War Experiencesnumber and percent for each experienced event
(N = 583) and average estimation (median) of 30 judges
War events

Median

Experienced air raid alerts or general alerts


Had to stay in cellars or shelters
Saw people get beaten, tortured or killed on television
Shooting was close to where they stayed
A family member was at the first frontline
Had to leave their home or place of residence due to the war
Some things or they loved were damaged/lost during the war
Was in a situation in which they thought that they would get/be killed
Was separated from family due to the war for more than three weeks
Someone in the family was held captive, detained or missing
Saw how someone got injured
A family member was killed during the war
A family member was wounded during the war
Saw people get beaten, tortured or killed
Carried/was close to injured or dead people
Saw somebody killed due to war or in an accident
Sometimes did not have enough food during the war
Had to sleep in the open as a result of the war
Was held captive or detained in a war camp
Was wounded in war

566
547
545
400
333
282
273
183
174
148
140
124
124
95
75
63
58
29
27
10

97.1
93.8
93.5
68.6
57.1
48.4
46.8
31.4
29.8
25.4
24
21.3
21.3
16.3
12.9
10.8
9.9
5
4.6
1.7

2
2
2
3
2
4
3
4
3
4
4
4
3
4
4
4
3
3
4
4

Most of my friends think that Im smart; There isnt anyone at school or in town with whom I would
feel perfectly comfortable talking about any problems I might have making friends). According to
the principal component analysis ISEL consists of three factors: instrumental support (17 items with
total range of scores from 17 to 68); support to self-esteem (5 items with total range of scores from
5 to 20); belonging and acceptance (9 items with total range of scores from 9 to 36). Subsequently,
ISEL was divided into three subscales (Table 3), with Cronbachs alpha coefficients .84 for instrumental
support subscale, .77 for support to self-esteem subscale, and .71 for belonging and acceptance subscale.
Instrumental support refers to the perceived availability of material aid and the perceived availability
Table 3
Comparisons of results of all scales between boys (N = 298) and girls (N = 285)
Boys

War events
Instrumental support
Support to self-esteem
Belonging and acceptance
Extraversion
Depressive symptoms

Girls

Mean

SD

Mean

SD

20.8
53.2
12.6
25.4
17.9
60.0

13.7
8.9
3.5
4.5
3.2
12.0

20.9
56.9
12.3
26.1
17.9
62.1

14.1
7.5
3.2
4.1
3.3
11.5

.96
.00
.19
.04
.96
.04


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37

of someone to talk about their problems. Support to self-esteem refers to the perceived availability of a
positive comparison in relation to others. Belonging and acceptance refer to the perceived availability of
people one can do things with, and the perceived acceptance from others.
Extraversion was assessed by the Croatian version of Junior Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQJunior) (24 items, e.g., Do you have many different hobbies?; Do you like going out a lot?; Do you
have many friends?) (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1994). The total range of scores on this scale is from 0 to 24.
Cronbachs alpha coefficient was .69.
The depressive reactions were examined by the Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale (RADS)
(Reynolds, 1986), which was translated into Croatian. The scale consists of 30 items based on the description of depressive symptoms in DSM-III (Reynolds, 1987). Children indicated the frequency of the
occurrence of the symptoms on a 4-point scale from 1 = almost never to 4 = most of the time (e.g., I have
trouble sleeping; I worry about school; I feel upset). The total range on this scale was from 30 to
120, and Cronbachs alpha coefficient was .87.
Procedure
Self-report instruments were group administered in a classroom setting with instructions from the
principal investigator before administration of each questionnaire. The questionnaires took 5060 minutes
to complete, and were administered during a period of one school class. The order of questions concerning
social support, depression and child personality was balanced, but the questions about war experiences
were always the last.
This research was approved by a committee at the Department of Psychology, University of Zagreb.
The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education and Sport agreed that the research
could be conducted in schools.
Data analysis
SPSS 6 for Windows was used to analyze the data. Besides descriptive statistics and correlation analyses, the final method of analysis included the multiple stepwise regression analyses, for boys and girls,
separately in which war events, instrumental support, support to self-esteem, belonging and acceptance,
and extraversion were treated as predictors, and depressive symptoms as criterion.

Results
Table 2 presents the war events experienced by the children. It is important to note that from a total
sample of 583 children, more than 90% were forced to seek shelter in cellars or bomb shelters, had
experienced air raid alerts or general alerts, and had seen people get beaten, tortured, wounded or killed
on television. In addition, almost 70% of all children had witnessed shooting close to their homes. Almost
50% of the children had to leave their homes, and subsequently to change their school, and 30% of were
separated from their parents and family due to war circumstances.
Table 3 shows the mean scores to each variable by gender. Boys and girls did not differ significantly in
the total score on the war experience scale (for boys: mean = 20.8, SD = 13.74 and for girls: mean = 20.9,
SD = 14.07). However, the scores on the depression scale and the social support scale indicated that there


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38
Table 4
Correlations between all scales

Boys (N = 298)
WE
IS
SE
BA
I-E
Girls (N = 285)
WE
IS
SE
BA
I-E

IS

SE

BA

I-E

.29**

.16**
.38**

.00
.38**
.20**

.04
.29**
.25**
.40**

.25**
.40**
.46**
.39**
.15**

.04

.11*
.38**

.05
.42**
.32**

.02
.23**
.18**
.38**

.09
.46**
.38**
.31**
.14*

WE: war events; IS: instrumental support; SE: support to self-esteem; BA: belonging and acceptance; I-E: extraversion; D:
depressive symptoms.

p < .05.

p < .01.

were gender differences. Girls reported that they had more depressive symptoms (p < .05), perceived that
they had more available instrumental social support (p < .01) and more available belonging and acceptance
social support (p < .05). Sex differences in perceived self-esteem social support were not found and on
the extraversion subscale (Table 3).
Table 4 shows the correlations among the variables. As expected, greater levels of perceived instrumental support, support to self-esteem and belonging and acceptance were related to fewer depressive symptoms for boys and girls. A positive correlation between the weighted number of experienced war events and depressive symptoms was found for boys only (r = .25). All significant correlations between perceived social support of different types and experienced war events were negative,
indicating that a greater amount of experienced war events were related to a lower level of perceived
social support. There were significant positive correlation between the three types of social support
and negative correlation between each type of social support and depressive symptoms for boys and
girls.
Regression analyses showed that boys manifested more depressive symptoms if they experienced
more war events. This finding, however, was not true for girls (Table 5). The greater extent of perceived
available social support for boys, namely instrumental support, support to self-esteem, belonging and
acceptance led to a smaller amount of depressive symptoms. For girls, perceived instrumental support
and self-esteem were related to a smaller amount of depressive symptoms. The predictors in the boys
sample accounted for 35% of the variance in the results on the depression scale, while the predictors
in the girl sample accounted for 27% of the variance. Extraversion was not a predictor of depression. A significant correlation was found between extraversion and belonging/accepting. A significant
relationship between these variables probably come about because extraversion does not contribute significantly to the prediction of depressive symptoms neither in the sample of boys, nor in the sample
of girls.


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Table 5
Summary of the multiple stepwise regression analyses of the depressive symptoms on the war events, instrumental support,
support to self-esteem, belonging and acceptance and extraversion for boys and girls
Boys

Girls

WE
IS
BA
SE

.16
.13
.28
.33

3.11
2.23
5.46
6.48

.002
.026
.000
.000

R
R2
F
p

.59
.35
39.48
.000

.37

6.73

.000

.24

4.41

.000

.52
.27
51.06
.000

WE: war events; IS: instrumental support; SE: support to self-esteem; BA: belonging and acceptance; I-E: extraversion; D:
depressive symptoms.

Discussion
In this study conducted 3 21 years after the war in Croatia, we found that almost all children in this
sample experienced more than one war event, and there were no differences between boys and girls in
their experiences of war. Results of our study suggest that boys suffer more from the long-term effects
of war than girls. However, we found that girls had more depressive symptoms than boys, which was
consistent with the results of previously studies with adolescents (Leadbeater, Blatt, & Quinlan, 1995;
Reynolds, 1994). The interpretation of regression analyses data show that three kind of social support and
war events are good predictors of the boys depressive symptoms and instrumental support and support
to self-esteem are good predictors of girls depressive symptoms. According to the results of our study,
exposure to war events increased depressive symptoms only in the boys sample. It seems that the girls
in our study are either more resilient to, or have a more subjective perceptions of traumatic experiences
than boys. Also, it seems that boys are less protected in stressful situations, which can be explained by
differential gender socialization. As a consequence, war events children experienced in the past have a
more prolonged stressful influence on boys than on girls. Similar findings can be found in the literature.
Studies in which the long-term effect of war events were investigated, such as the study conducted
on Palestinian and Israeli children (Garbarino & Kostelny, 1996; Hoffman et al., 1993), showed that
boys experienced significantly stronger stress reactions than girls under conditions of high accumulated
risk.
It should be noted that many fathers of the children in our study fought, were prisoners in war camps
or were killed during the war. Consequently, their sons were required to undertake the role of their fathers
in these families, so it is possible that boys, even as preadolescents, were additionally burdened with the
political situation and countrys safety than girls. In addition, boys perhaps memorized war events more
vividly than girls, so they remembered more detailed war events.
In contrast to the findings of our study, Barber (1999) showed that for Palestinian adolescents war
experience as children predicted increased depression only for girls 1 to 2 years after the end of war, but
war experiences were unrelated to parental support, parental monitoring or conflict with sons. The same

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author showed direct associations between Palestinian Intifada experiences and depression only for girls
(Barber, 2001).
Good perceived parenting protected childrens psychological adjustment (Punamaki, Qouta, & Sarraj,

1997). Brajsa-Zganec
and Zganec
(1994) showed that the level of available social support was significantly
lower for children, boys and girls, who had to leave their place of residence, whose family member got
injured or killed during the war as well as for those children whose parents were at the front-lines. Our
results showed that a greater level of the three kinds of perceived social support from mother, father,
friends, and so forth are related to fewer depressive symptoms. It is clear that children who have close
family contacts are more likely to show good personal, social and educational adjustment. For example,
exposure to wartime conditions may result in more intense relationships within families. Many children
that were exposed to stressful wartime conditions, however, did not show depressive symptoms. Thus,
in order to protect children from the harmful effects of war more attention should be given to the factors
that may mediate or buffer the negative effects of wartime conditions on children (Jensen & Shaw, 1993).
Previously, research showed that interactions between each kind of social support and war events in

hierarchical regression analyses were not significant for depressive symptoms (Brajsa-Zganec,
1997).
Based on our research and previous studies we cannot conclude that perceived social support represents
a protective factor for depressive symptoms. Results of our study only showed that greater social support
is related to less depressive symptoms for boys and girls. In the boys sample, study findings showed that
greater amount of experienced war events was on the one side related to more depressive symptoms, and
on the other side to less instrumental social support. However, in this research the findings mentioned
above showed not to be true for girls.
There are several limitations in this study. First, the data were collected post hoc, that is after children
were exposed to violent and dangerous conditions and not during their exposure to war events. One
might also question the validity of the information obtained from these children about the war events
they experienced approximately 3 21 years before. The time that elapsed between this study and actual
child experience surely represents a limitation to generalizing of these findings. Second, we collected no
information from parents about the childrens experiences of war events, social support, and depressive
symptoms. Third, except for educational level, we did not obtain sufficient information about the parents
socioeconomic status, religious, and political affiliations. Since this was a period of intensive political
violence it was difficult to collect the above-mentioned data.
We conclude that depressive symptoms in boys are related to the number and severity of experienced
war events, while this is not true for the girls. However, girls have more depressive symptoms than boys.
It is possible that depressive symptoms in girls are related to some other aspects of the war situation that
were not measured in our study. In situations where we cannot avoid exposure of children to stressful
events, such as the situation of war, results of our study suggest that a greater level of perceived social
support is related to less depressive symptoms both for boys and girls in early adolescence.

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Resume
Objectif: Le but de letude e tait de chercher si des degres differents de symptomes depressifs chez des
garcons et filles primo-adolescents pouvaient e tre predits sur la base de leurs experiences de guerre,


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43

de leur perception dune possible aide sociale (aide materielle, soutien de lestime de soi, sentiment
dappartenance et detre reconnus) et leur extraversion.
Methodes: Lechantillon e tait constitue de 583 enfants a ges de 12 a` 15 ans; 283 enfants provenaient
de differentes parties de la Croatie deplaces depuis approximativement trois ans et demi. Les materiels
detude suivants ont e te proposes: Questionnaire sur les experiences infantiles de guerre e prouvantes et
traumatiques, Echelle de depression adolescente de Reynolds, Questionnaire de personnalite du jeune
de Eysenck, Liste devaluation daide interpersonnelle.
Resultats: Les analyses de regression ont montre que les experiences de guerre provoquaient davantage de
symptomes depressifs chez les garcons seulement. Le degre plus important de perception dune possibilite
daide sociale (aide materielle, soutien a` lestime de soi, sentiment dappartenance et detre reconnu)
e taient lies a` moins de symptomes depressifs. Chez les filles, la perception dune aide materielle et
dun soutien a` lestime de soi donnait moins de symptomes depressifs. Les indices de prediction dans
lechantillon de garcons comptaient 35% de difference de resultats sur lechelle de depression, 27% dans
lechantillon de filles.
Conclusions: Nous affirmons en conclusion que les garcons souffrent plus que les filles des effets a` long
terme de la guerre. Dans les situations o`u les enfants ne peuvent e tre proteges devenements e prouvants,
tels que la guerre, une meilleure perception de la possibilite daide sociale est en liaison avec moins de
symptomes depressifs a` la fois chez les garcons et les filles primo-adolescents.
Resumen
Objetivo: El objetivo es investigar si es posible predecir diferentes niveles de sintomatologa depresiva
en chicos y chicas preadolescentes en base a las experiencias de guerra, la accesibilidad percibida de
apoyo social (apoyo instrumental, apoyo de autoestima, pertenencia y aceptacion) y la extraversion.
Metodo: La muestra estaba compuesta por 583 ninos de entre 12 y 15 anos, de los cuales 283 haban
estado desplazados por diferentes partes de Croatia por un periodo de aproximadamente 3 anos y medio. Se
administraron los siguientes instrumentos: Cuestionario para ninos de experiencias de guerra traumaticas
y estresantres, Escala Reynolds de Depresion para Adolescentes, Cuestionario Junior de Personalidad
Eysenck y la Lista de Evaluacion del Apoyo Interpersonal.
Resultados: Los analisis de regresion mostraron que u nicamente en los varones se observa una relacion
entre la existencia de mas experiencias de guerra y mas sntomas depresivos. Una mayor percepcion
de accesibilidad de apoyo social en los varones estaba asociada con menos sntomas depresivos. Se
observa en las ninas una relacion de la autoestima y el apoyo instrumental percibido con menos sntomas
depresivos. Para los varones, los predictores dieron cuenta del 35% de la varianza en los resultados de la
escala de depresion. En el caso de las mujeres los predictores dan cuenta de un 27% de la varianza.
Conclusiones: Se puede concluir que los varones sufren mas consecuencias de la guerra a largo plazo
que las mujeres. En las ocasiones en que los ninos no pueden ser protegidos de la situacion de guerra, un
mayor nivel de apoyo social percibido esta relacionado con un menor nivel de sntomas depresivos tanto
para chicos como para chicas adolescentes.