Posttraumatic stress among Palestinian adolescents in the Gaza Strip: An analysis of event-related and demographic factors


  • Ibrahim Abu Nada
  • Smadar Celestin-Westreich
  • Wim Van den Broeck
  • Leon-Patrice Celestin


Objective: This study investigates the impact of ongoing traumatic events on Palestinian adolescents’ posttraumatic stress according to event-related and demographic factors. Method: A sample of 368 Palestinian adolescents (49.2% males, mean age 17.03) was drawn from different areas of the Gaza Strip. Students were investigated on exposure to traumatic events and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and disorder (PTSD). Results: The mean number of traumatic events experienced by the adolescents was 9.9 (SD = 3.20). Boys were significantly more exposed than girls, as were adolescents living in villages compared to those living in Gaza city or refugee camps. Adolescents mainly and pervasively experienced objective, non-personal material exposure (such as witnessing bombardments) (85% to 96%) and media exposure (95%). Up to 17% of the adolescents experienced direct, physical exposure (7% personal injury), exposure through injury and death of relatives. In this context, two fifths of the adolescents experienced mild, two fifths moderate and one fifth severe PTSS. Remarkably, adolescents did not differ significantly in PTSS despite exposure differences across gender, place of residency and family income. Conclusion: Near half of the investigated adolescents living in the Gaza Strip experience moderate to severe levels of posttraumatic stress, for around one fifth this amounts to a probable posttraumatic stress disorder. These findings urge toward providing psychological support programs to Palestinian adolescents to enhance current wellbeing and limit further developmental risks. Furthermore, the findings suggest the need to investigate the role of appraisal and coping to understand the pathways through which differences in trauma exposure lead to similar posttraumatic stress outcomes.