The impact of parental detention on the psychological wellbeing of Palestinian children.


Background: Since 1967, the Palestinian Occupied Territories are marked by a political conflict between Palestinians and Israel. During this conflict, about one fifth of the Palestinian population has been detained; about one quarter of these are parents. Although we know that father’s incarceration might impact their children’s psychological wellbeing, little is known about the impact of father’s imprisonment on young children (under 11 years old), and when the incarceration is framed in contexts of political conflict. Therefore, this study aimed at gaining insight into the impact of parental detention on young children’s psychological wellbeing, and the impact of witnessing the detention process itself. Methods: Based on the list of imprisoned Palestinian men with children living in the West Bank, a group of 79 (3- to 10-years old) children was randomly composed. Above, through schools and health centers, a comparison sample of 99 children who didn’t experience imprisonment of a family member was selected. Mothers of these children completed two cross-culturally validated questionnaires on their children’s psychological wellbeing, the UCLAPTSD-Index and the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Results: Results showed higher levels of PTSD and general mental health problems associated with father’s capturing. Above, when the children watched the arrest process of their fathers, scores still increased further. Younger children tended to show higher SDQ scores, and children living in villages reported higher posttraumatic stress scores compared to children living in urban areas or refugee camps. Little gender differences were found. Conclusion: This study shows the important impact of parental detention on the psychological wellbeing for young children and urges for more psychological care and support for family members-in particular children-of detainees.