The Experience of Palestinian Children Facing Traumatic Events The Case of a Village under Military Occupation: A Descriptive Phenomenological Study

Discussion Committee: 
Dr. Sabrina Russo / Supervisor
Dr. Laura Ferrero / External Examiner
Dr. Denise Berte / Internal Examiner
Dr. Sabrina Russo / Supervisor
Farid Abu Liel
Introduction: The objective of this research is to provide an overview of the effects of war and living in a conflict zone on children; to capture their lived experience facing traumatic events and to explore the phenomenological experience of those children who live in a village nearby an Israeli settlement and separation wall, under a daily struggle against the Israeli occupation. The research seeks to understand the effect of trauma on children who live in a violent environment in order to understand the impact of such traumatic events on them, and to explore their feelings and thoughts. Aim: The aim of this study is to investigate and describe the experience of Palestinian children facing daily traumatic events. It is also our concern to understand how these children are psychologically affected by their experience. Military occupation poses a challenge for the mental health of children in Palestine, and it is influenced by a set of complex and interactive individual, social, cultural, and economic factors. Lack of studies in such issues makes it difficult to understand the phenomena in relation to the special cultural and social aspects in Palestine. Understanding these factors is critical in provision of effective and culturally appropriate care. We will employ a qualitative approach in order to create a rich and deep understanding of this important issue. Design: The design used is a qualitative phenomenological descriptive design. This design is used to study and to explore the lived experience of the Palestinian children who face traumatic events by describing the aspect of this experience and by focusing on what exists. Sample: Purposive sampling was used; 15 children who lived in a Palestinian village under military occupation and experiencing settler attacks. Setting: Interviews were conducted in a private room in the respondent’s house. Data Analysis: The data was analyzed by using Giorgi’s phenomenological psychology method (1985). Results: Three major themes emerged from the children’s interviews and ten sub-themes; (1) Exposure to Traumatic Events (Life threatening, witnessing violence, direct violence, deprivation of freedom, lack of safety and fear); (2) Normalization (1Role playing the traumatic events, Underestimation of danger); (3) Resilience (self-efficacy, 2Awareness and belonging, and trust in adults). Conclusion: The findings of the study demonstrate the importance of understanding the experience of the Palestinian children facing traumatic events. It reflects how these children face the traumatic events regarding the military and settler actions in their village, how they react to these events, and the degree to which they are affected. The children normalized the events through role playing the trauma and acting out violence and underestimation of danger, but then demonstrated resiliency that allowed them to increase their courage to continue. Key words: Phenomenology, trauma, children, war
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