Relationship between Political Violence and Psychological Responses among Palestinian Women

Citation:

Punamäki, Raija-Leena. 1990. “Relationships between Political Violence and Psychological Responses among Palestinian Women.” Journal of Peace Research 27 (1): 75–85.

Author: Raija-Leena Punamäki

Abstract:

The article discusses the impact of political violence and personal factors on psychological stress responses. The sample consists of three groups of Palestinian women: (1) a West Bank/Gaza group of 174 women from the Israeli-occupied areas; (2) a Beirut group of 30 women from the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila; and (3) a comparison group of 35 Palestinian women living in Israel proper who were not exposed to direct political violence. As the determinants of psychological stress responses, worries, appraisal of availability of resources to cope (helplessness-controllability), coping modes and mental health problems were assessed. The hypothesized determinants of the stress process are place of residence, personal exposure to political hardships, economic stand and the age of the woman. The results showed significant differences between the three groups in their stress responses. The women of the Beirut group were the most traumatized, but psychologically this was reflected only in their showing more helplessness and lack of control in their personal lives than the women of the other Palestinian groups. The Beirut group expressed the lowest and the comparison group the highest level of political and personal worries. Furthermore, the Beirut group suffered less from mental health problems than the West Bank/Gaza group. These results accord with observations that in war and conflict situations, mental health problems tend to be more common in threatened areas, where fighting is expected to occur, than in the actual fighting areas. They also refer to people's general tendency to delay or modify their psychological symptoms in an extremely painful situation. In the West Bank/Gaza group, exposure to political hardships was related to a low level of passive and to a high level of socially-politically active coping modes. Yet, exposure to political hardships also increased mental health problems, which is a reminder of the price which people are forced to pay in order to cope with political violence.

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Refugees, Gender, Women, Health, Mental Health, Violence Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 1990

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