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Title: The long-term psychological sequelae of childhood experiences during World War II
Author: Waugh, Melinda J.
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2001
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The present study aimed to examine the long-term effects of war experiences, evacuation and possible childhood abuse on older adults who were children during World War II. Participants were recruited from the Evacuee Reunion Association and from adverts for volunteers in various local newspapers and a national magazine. Three hundred and forty-one volunteers who were children during WWII completed self-report postal questionnaires. Measures included Questionnaires on Evacuation Experiences, War Related Experiences, Childhood Abuse and Adult Attachment Styles, as well as the Impact of Event Scale-Revised and the General Health Questionnaire-28. A path analysis provided a model for how the key variables may relate to each other and the comparative strength of these relationships. In summary, it appears that those who were not evacuated were at higher risk of war related experiences such as air-raids and that the impact of these experiences may be affecting current psychological morbidity, mainly due to a failure to process the traumatic events to adaptive completion. The relationships between the variables of abuse, attachment and PTSD symptoms, and current psychological morbidity are complex. It appears that those who were evacuated, were at higher risk of being abused and the impact of this abuse may have affected their attachment style (and therefore the subsequent availability of social support). Both abuse and attachment style affect current psychological morbidity through the intervening variable of PTSD symptoms. This would suggest that those with insecure attachment styles may have less social support and that this may have made it more difficult to overcome traumatic symptoms. Ultimately, in this study, it appears that current psychological morbidity is affected by PTSD symptoms and that these symptoms reveal a failure to process traumatic events experienced as a child during the second world war. Therefore a significant number of people who were children during the war will have current psychological problems related to those experiences. Both evacuees and non-evacuees could be affected but for different reasons. Evacuees were found to be more likely to have suffered some form of abuse (emotional, sexual or neglect) whereas non-evacuees were found to be more likely to have suffered traumatic war related experiences (such as air-raids and their aftermath). The relationship between experiences of war related trauma, childhood abuse and attachment on current psychological morbidity were found to be mediated by PTSD symptoms in this sample. It appears that the events of World War II, including evacuation, had a major impact on those who were children at the time and continues to affect their lives even now, sixty years on. Investigation of the psychological sequelae of negative war-time experiences has been neglected until recently, but there are now indicators that there may be implications for the current mental health treatment of this age-group and health-care professionals need to be aware of this possibility.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available