Emic Perspectives on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children's Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-Being: Applying a Social Ecological Framework of Resilience in Northern Sri Lanka

Fiona C. Thomas, Wietse A. Tol, Anavarathan Vallipuram, Sambasivamoorthy Sivayokan, Mark J D Jordans, Ria Reis, Joop T V M de Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The impact of armed conflict on the mental health of children and youth has been well documented. However, examining emic perspectives (i.e., locally held insider views) on the mental health consequences of armed conflicts in diverse populations has received less attention. Qualitative data was collected in northern Sri Lanka, which included focus groups (FGs) with children, parents, and teachers (20 FGs), key informant interviews (18), and semistructured interviews with families particularly affected by the armed conflict (7). Thematic analyses showed a large range of impact on mental health conceptualized as spiritual problems (e.g., evil spirits and witchcraft), moral concerns (e.g., violence as a means to solve conflict), and perceived cultural decline. Most problems are addressed within the family, but eclectic care across the formal and informal sectors is sought when symptoms persist or worsen. Using a theoretical framework of ecological resilience, we identified examples of resources for children at the individual, family, and community levels. Mental health services in Sri Lanka could be improved by building on local mental health conceptualizations and available resources, especially with regard to rebuilding links between individual, family, and community structures. (PsycINFO Database Record

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPeace and Conflict
StateAccepted/In press - Jun 9 2016



  • Armed conflict
  • Children
  • Resilience
  • Sri Lanka

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations

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