Understanding resilience in armed conflict: Social resources and mental health of children in Burundi

Brian J. Hall, Wietse A. Tol, Mark J.D. Jordans, Judith Bass, Joop T.V.M. de Jong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Little is known about the role of cognitive social capital among war-affected youth in low- and middle-income countries. We examined the longitudinal association between cognitive social capital and mental health (depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms), functioning, and received social support of children in Burundi. Data were obtained from face-to-face interviews with 176 children over three measurement occasions over the span of 4-months. Cognitive social capital measured the degree to which children believed their community was trustworthy and cohesive. Mental health measures included the Depression Self-Rating Scale (DSRS) (Birleson, 1981), the Child Posttraumatic Symptom Scale (Foa etal., 2001), and a locally constructed scale of functional impairment. Children reported received social support by listing whether they received different types of social support from self-selected key individuals. Cross-lagged path analytic modeling evaluated relationships between cognitive social capital, symptoms and received support separately over baseline (T1), 6-week follow-up (T2), and 4-month follow-up (T3). Each concept was treated and analyzed as a continuous score using manifest indicators. Significant associations between study variables were unidirectional. Cognitive social capital was associated with decreased depression between T1 and T2 (B=-22, p<.001) and T2 and T3 (β=-25, p<.001), and with functional impairment between T1 and T2 (β=-15, p=005) and T2 and T3 (β=-14, p=005); no association was found for PTSD symptoms at either time point. Cognitive social capital was associated with increased social support between T1 and T2 (β=16, p=002) and T2 and T3 (β=16, p=002). In this longitudinal study, cognitive social capital was related to a declining trajectory of children's mental health problems and increases in social support. Interventions that improve community relations in war-affected communities may alter the trajectories of resource loss and gain with conflict-affected children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-128
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Children
  • Depression
  • Functioning
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Resilience
  • Social capital
  • War

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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