Active war in Sri Lanka: Children's war exposure, coping, and posttraumatic stress disorder symptom severity

Champika K. Soysa, Sandra T. Azar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in response to active war is understudied among Sinhalese children in Sri Lanka. We investigated PTSD symptom severity in children using child (n = 60) and mother (n = 60) reports; child-reported war exposure and coping; as well as self-reported maternal PTSD symptom severity. The study addressed active war in 2 rural locations (acute and chronic community war exposure). Child-reports were significantly greater than mother-reports of child PTSD symptom severity. Furthermore, children's war exposure, child-reported and mother-reported child PTSD symptom severity, and maternal PTSD symptom severity were significantly greater in the acute versus chronic community war exposure location, but children's approach and avoidance coping did not significantly differ, indicating a potential ceiling effect. Children's war exposure significantly, positively predicted child-reported child PTSD symptom severity, controlling for age, gender, and maternal PTSD symptom severity, but only maternal PTSD symptom severity significantly, positively predicted mother-reported child PTSD symptom severity. Avoidance coping (in both acute and chronic war) significantly positively mediated the children's war exposure-child-reported child PTSD symptom severity relation, but not mother-reports of the same. Approach coping (in chronic but not acute war) significantly, positively mediated the children's war exposure- child-reported and mother-reported child PTSD symptom severity relations. We advanced the literature on long-term active war by confirming the value of children's self-reports, establishing that both approach and avoidance coping positively mediated the war-exposure- PTSD symptom severity relation, and that the mediation effect of approach coping was situationally moderated by acute verses chronic community war exposure among Sri Lankan children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-685
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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