Self-efficacy beliefs are beliefs a person has about his or her ability to accomplish goals. In studies of adults who have undergone traumatic events, low self-efficacy expectations are associated with poorer psychological outcomes. This study was conducted to determine whether there might be the same association for young people as well.
The study compared three groups of Lebanese thirteen-year-olds. The first group was made up of children who had developed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after suffering war-related trauma. These children had undergone bombings, rape by soldiers, and other extreme stresses. The second group had experienced similar trauma but had not developed PTSD. The final group of children had not been exposed to any trauma because they had left the country during the war or lived in areas that were spared fighting.
Self-efficacy takes many forms, so researchers asked the children questions in a number of areas, including their ability to get assistance from other people, learn school subjects, interact socially, enlist support from their families, and resist peer pressure to engage in risky behavior. The children with PTSD scored significantly lower than the children without the disorder in eight of the nine categories of questions. Children who had endured trauma but had not been diagnosed with PTSD were rated about as highly as the children who had escaped any trauma. Interestingly, children from all three groups-even the PTSD sufferers-rated their ability to resist peer pressure as high. The researchers believe that this may be due to the strong taboos in Lebanese society against risky behavior such as drinking, drug use, and premarital sex.
PTSD is known to affect school performance and relationships with other people. In fact, difficulty concentrating, a lack of interest in important activities, and social withdrawal are all hallmarks of the disorder. These personality and behavior changes, the researchers believe, may account for the low self-efficacy among the children with PTSD in this study.