A Qualitative Study of Mental Health Problems among Children Displaced by War in Northern Uganda

Theresa Stichick Betancourt, Liesbeth Speelman, Grace Onyango, Paul Bolton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


While multiple studies have found that children affected by war are at increased risk for a range of mental health problems, little research has investigated how mental health problems are perceived locally. In this study we used a previously developed rapid ethnographic assessment method to explore local perceptions of mental health problems among children and adults from the Acholi ethnic group displaced by the war in northern Uganda. We conducted 45 free list interviews and 57 key informant interviews. The rapid assessment approach appears to have worked well for interviewing caretakers and children aged 10—17 years. We describe several locally defined syndromes: two tam/par/kumu (depression and dysthymia-like syndromes), ma lwor (a mixed anxiety and depression-like syndrome), and a category of conduct problems referred to as kwo maraco/gin lugero. The descriptions of these local syndromes were similar to western mood, anxiety and conduct disorders, but included culturespecific elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-256
Number of pages19
Journaltranscultural psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • children and adolescents
  • mental health
  • northern Uganda
  • qualitative research
  • war

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'A Qualitative Study of Mental Health Problems among Children Displaced by War in Northern Uganda'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this