This study examined the role played by gender differences in the relation between political violence exposure and mental health during adolescence. Understanding these differences is particularly pertinent during the period of adolescence characterized as it is by processes of identity formation and gender role consolidation. Participants were 154 high school students recruited from two high schools in central Israel (78 males, 76 females; average age 16.54), who completed the Political Life Events Scale for measurement of political violence exposure, the Brief Symptom Inventory-18 for assessment of psychological symptoms and disorders, a risk-taking behavior scale, and the Posttraumatic Stress Symptom Scale - Interview (PSS-I) for assessment of posttraumatic stress symptoms. Results reflected high levels on many psychological indicators. The dose-response hypothesis was partially confirmed with adolescents' higher reported political violence exposure related only to higher levels of somatization and greater severity of posttraumatic stress symptoms. Contrary to the literature, only a few gender differences emerged and these showed mixed patterns. Females showed higher levels of anxiety than males, and males showed higher levels of risk-taking behavior. Females exposed to low political violence exposure showed significantly less substance abuse than males but those with high exposure reported significantly higher levels of substance abuse, equivalent to those of males. Findings show a complex constellation of gender effects on relations between political violence exposure and different psychopathological outcomes. Findings of this study indicate the necessity for more refined examination of gender differences in psychological processes in reaction to living in conditions of protracted conflict and war.
- Armed conflict
- Substance abuse