Project Summary

This project investigates the associations of war and post conflict factors with mental health among Sierra Leone's former child soldiers as adults. It explores how sigma and familial or community support impact postconflict life courses.


How war experiences operate within the post conflict environment to shape long-term health and social functioning of former child soldiers is not well understood. Despite the high rates of mental health problems among former child soldiers, research on the topic is fraught with realities of heterogeneity in timing, severity, and type of exposure. Few research is available on the long term, adult outcomes that these children experience. This study examines the impact of this trauma in these adults and considers theater postconflict family and community support and associated with mitigated long-term difficulties.

Measurement & Metrics

Mixed methods were used to establish culturally meaningful and valid assessments of mental health, risk, protective factors, and social functioning. All measures were self-reported and selected in consultations with local staff and community members. Items from the Child War Trauma Questionnaire, the Oxford Measure of Psychosocial Adjustment, Hopkins Symptom Checklist, Child Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Reaction Index, and Bayesian Information Criterion were adapted for use in this project. The cohort was split into a “socially vulnerable” “improving social integration,” and “socially protected” group. This was measured by perceived sigma, family support, and community acceptance.

Principal Investigator


Carolyn Schafer
Program Manager

Key Findings

  • Former child soldiers in the "Socially Vulnerable group, compared with those in the Socially Protected group, were about 2 times more likely to experience levels of anxiety or depression above the conventional clinical threshold. 
  • Our results emphasize the importance of monitoring and attending to post-conflict community and family relationships as well as underlying mental health conditions.

Facts & Figures