A pioneering study by Amer Shehadeh et. al. published in 2015 looked at the psychological effect of imprisonment on fathers on Palestinian children aged 3-11 living on the Israeli occupied West Bank.
Although Palestinian children overall grow up in a stressful environment because of the violent Israeli occupation, the study found that a father’s absence through imprisonment had a significant magnifying effect on children’s mental health, which was exacerbated if the child had witnessed her or his father being arrested and taken away by Israel’s occupation forces.
The prevalence of severe post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) was 12 times higher than in comparable population of Palestinian children whose fathers had not been imprisoned; a total of 14.2 % children in the sample had severe PTSD. Higher percentage, 15.4 %, showed overall evidence of behavioural and psychological problems, which was 28 times higher than with children whose father had not been imprisoned. 13.7 % had emotional problems, 10 times more than in the group they were compared to.
Children who had witnessed their father being arrested by Israeli occupation forces were 5 times more likely to have PTSD. Behavioural and psychological problems were also five times higher in this group. On overall, 36.7 % of the children had witnessed their father being arrested and one out of third among them showed evidence of behavioural and psychological problems.
There was little difference between genders, but the younger the child in question, the more likely they were to show symptoms. Children living in villages instead of urbananized areas – real towns or refugee camps – were about four times more likely to have PTSD. This is likely to have been down to the fact that villages are more likely to be in Area C of the West Bank, directly and solely controlled by Israeli occupation forces with the children overall experiencing more fear and violence in their daily lives.
PHOTO: Abu Karam Maswathi with his son Wadia(5) in occupied Hebron on July 9th 2013 by International Solidarity Movement.