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“I Hope I Will Be Able to Go Back to My Home City”: Narratives of Suffering and Survival of Children in Palestine

Abstract

In light of critical psychology and socio-constructionist theories, the present work aims at analyzing attitudes of political agency, psychological adjustment to trauma, and resistance, as protective factors against political violence in 122 children living in refugee camps in Palestine: Aida and Dheisheh camps in the West Bank and Jabalia camp on the Gaza Strip. Data were collected over 3 months, during summer camps that lasted at least 6 days. We conducted a comparative analysis of the use of drawing as a diagnostic tool for children who have experienced severe trauma and its use as a narrative instrument. Two strikingly different portraits emerge from a diagnostic perspective on the inner states of trauma-impacted children versus a narrative child-centered perspective that values children’s own efforts to construct meaning. The former type of analysis is underpinned by an image of vulnerable children, afflicted by symptoms and at risk of losing emotional and behavioral control. In contrast, the analysis of children’s narratives reveals abundant sources of functioning, coping abilities and agency in facing adversity. We discuss the fact that the first of these approaches fails to capture the protective and functioning factors underlying aspects of dysfunction and maladaptation. Diagnosis-oriented approaches risk to victimize and pathologize children living in contexts of ongoing trauma. The results of this preliminary survey on children’s activism and agency show and confirm the crucial role of context in shaping children’s suffering and reactions to war and ongoing violence.

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Veronese, G., Cavazzoni, F. “I Hope I Will Be Able to Go Back to My Home City”: Narratives of Suffering and Survival of Children in Palestine. Psychol Stud 65, 51–63 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12646-019-00502-5

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Keywords

  • Children agency
  • Psychiatric diagnosis
  • Psychological functioning
  • Political and military violence