Novel research findings suggest that chronic exposure to rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip towards the Israeli Negev increases severe adolescent violence. The study was conducted by Prof. Golan Shahar from BGU (pictured above) and by Prof. Christopher Henrich from Georgia State University in the USA. The online version of the article in which the study is reported has recently been published by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), which is ranked #1 out of 111 journals in Pediatric Medicine. Funds for this study were obtained from the USA-Israel Binational Research Foundation, and from BGU.
Henrich and Shahar and their respective teams, followed 362 Israeli adolescents from the Western Negev for four years (from 2008 to 2011), with annual assessments of exposure to rocket attacks, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and severe violence. The finding featured prominently in this study was that exposure to rocket attacks, including one experienced prior to the commencement of this study, predicted a steep increase in the severe violent incidents reported by the adolescent participants. Such incidents included: hurting someone so badly in a physical fight that they had to seek medical treatment, being involved in a gang fight, being arrested by the police for a violent crime, and having carried a weapon (most likely, a knife). Levels of severe violence which were relatively low at the beginning of the study, (e.g., less than 18%) have risen as a function of exposure to rocket attacks, such that each exposure to rocket attacks prior to the commencement of the study has predicted a 2.5 increase in the likelihood of involvement in severe violence.
Their findings are the first to attest to the longitudinal effect of terrorism on adolescent violence, according to Henrich and Shahar. “I applaud the effort made by medical, welfare, and psychological agencies in the Northern Negev to prevent the deleterious effect of exposure to terrorism on youth development and health,” says Shahar who is thoroughly familiar with psychological interventions in the Negev.
“It is in light of these efforts,” notes Shahar, “that our findings regarding the effect of exposure to rockets on adolescent violence are so alarming.”