Children, like adults, are victims of war, terrorism, and political violence around the world. In such situations, the children's experience of trauma is related to their age. Infants and young children are at risk of abduction, violent separation from parents or caregivers, and a lack of adequate food and sanitation. School-age children may witness-or be forced to watch-rape, torture, or murder of relatives or neighbors. Adolescents can become targets of violence themselves or be called on to give first aid to the wounded, bury the dead, or wage war. In the face of such atrocities, many children and adolescents develop posttraumatic stress disorder PTSD, anxiety, and depression or face impairments in their social, psychological, and biophysiological development.
Research and clinical work show that a three-tiered approach may be the best way to work with such children. First, the widest possible population of children-along with their parents, caregivers, and teachers-needs to be offered general support, which can be delivered through their schools, religious institutions, or community agencies. The second tier is for children with severe levels of PTSD, grief, and depression. They need targeted interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, educational assistance, drug therapy, and grief counseling. For children with additional problems, such as trauma-related injuries, medical treatment and physical rehabilitation must be made available. Holding the perpetrators of violence responsible for their actions and bringing them to justice are also components in the healing process for traumatized children, and their communities.