Impacts of Terrorism on Children



Impacts of Terrorism on Children

Terrorism is the illegal use of violence against a person or property to intimidate the government or citizens for political reasons or social objectives. It is the greatest form of violent trauma that affects children. One of the impacts of terrorism in children is a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, this paper’s discussion is based on post-traumatic stress disorder as one of the major impacts of terrorism on children.

Psychological Issue

Children who are exposed to terrorism develop post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a unique psychological disorder that every child who has experienced an unusual event such as terrorism has to go through. The symptoms of PTSD begin within one month of terrorism, and in some children, the symptoms may appear after some years of the event. The symptoms have a great problem for the children. Due to fear and anxiety, the symptoms may hinder their ability to go about their normal daily activities or even associate with other children. The symptoms may vary from one child to another (Clark et al., 2020). There are symptoms of intrusive memories where the child experiences vivid flashbacks; they feel that the event is happening. Also, children encounter serious psychological distress or physical reaction to things that remind them of the terrorist event. In this regard, they may be easily startled or frightened by something (Slone & Mann 2016). There are avoidance symptoms where the child tries to avoid places, activities, or persons who remind them of the terrorism event. PTSD can disrupt a child’s whole life, and providing timely help and support may prevent normal stress in children from getting worse.

Assessment Measures for PTSD

Some of the symptoms, such as nightmares, ongoing fear or sadness, lack of positive emotions, and becoming very upset when something causes a memory of the event, can be used to evaluate the existence of PTSD in children. However, the best effective way of assessing PTSD in children is diagnosis. In the case of terrorism, the doctor may begin by performing a psychological evaluation that involves discussing the child’s signs and symptoms and the event that led to the problem (Foa et al., 2016). After the discussion, the physician must inaugurate that the child has been exposed to an utmost terrorism event that satisfies the use of DSM of Mental Disorders criteria. The child must have directly witnessed, experienced, and learned something about it. At the same time, the child must have encountered the event to be fatal, involved severe injuries, or threatened physical integrity that must have triggered the emotional response of fear. From the interview, the doctor may assess that the child has PTSD and require treatment.

Treatment Options

Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment can help the child and adolescents retrieve a sense of power over their life. The first-line treatment for children and teenagers is trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. It involves talking and encouraging the children about the traumatic event they experienced. It is helpful for children in primary schools. The talking therapy for children and teenagers is possible by gently supporting and encouraging them to talk and express how they feel about the terrorism event in a safe manner and in a way that helps their mind make sense of what happened during the event (Rizzo & Shilling 2017). This treatment teaches children and teenagers relevant skills to control their scary or distressing feelings about the trauma. During trauma-focused therapy, they learn about the type of traumatic event encountered and common reactions to trauma. They also learn to construct a coherent story of the terrorism event and rectify any irrelevant beliefs about the event. Exposure therapy is also a behavioral therapy that helps children and adolescents face hard situations and memories that they may find threatening and learn how to cope effectively. The therapy can be helpful for flashbacks and nightmare symptoms.

How Culture Influences the Treatment of PTSD

The beliefs on how to heal from post-traumatic stress disorder vary from one culture to another. The way people suffer and heal after terrorism depends a lot on their culture, values, and norms. How Americans and Western Psychology describes PTSD does not match the symptoms of people from Non-Western cultures (Asnaani & Hall-Clark 2017). For instance, people in Sri Lanka believed that the symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks and nightmares as described in the DSM IV is not true. Instead, they believed that symptoms that come after a traumatic event are worries and fears concerning the loss of their role in their group. According to Sri Lanka, individual therapy can complicate the problems encountered by PTSD patients because the therapy causes isolation (Asnaani & Hall-Clark 2017). They prefer to remain in the group without splitting them to speak to a therapist but stay within their group. Among the East Africans for instance, talking about distress and traumatic events does not show maturity. In other words, East Africans encourage individual therapy to heal from PTSD.


PTSD is a disorder that children who have experienced a traumatic event such as terrorism go through. The symptoms vary from one child to another, and the most effective way to assess the symptoms is through diagnosis. The treatment option for children is talking to them and teaching them how to cope with the situation. Nonetheless, cultural beliefs on the treatment of PTSD vary from one culture to another.


Asnaani, A., & Hall-Clark, B. (2017). Recent developments in understanding ethnocultural and race differences in trauma exposure and PTSD. Current opinion in psychology14, 96-101.

Clark, A. E., Doyle, O., & Stancanelli, E. (2020). The Impact of Terrorism on Individual Well-being: Evidence from the Boston Marathon Bombing. The Economic Journal130(631), 2065-2104.

Foa, E. B., McLean, C. P., Zang, Y., Zhong, J., Rauch, S., Porter, K., … & Kauffman, B. Y. (2016). Psychometric properties of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptom Scale Interview for DSM–5 (PSSI–5). Psychological assessment28(10), 1159.

Reisman, M. (2016). PTSD treatment for veterans: What’s working, what’s new, and what’s next. Pharmacy and Therapeutics41(10), 623.

Rizzo, A. S., & Shilling, R. (2017). Clinical virtual-reality tools to advance the prevention, assessment, and treatment of PTSD. European Journal of Psychotraumatology8(sup5), 1414560.

Slone, M., & Mann, S. (2016). Effects of war, terrorism and armed conflict on young children: a systematic review. Child Psychiatry & Human Development47(6), 950-965.