Post-conflict struggles as networks of problems: A network analysis of trauma, daily stressors and psychological distress among Sri Lankan war survivors

Nuwan Jayawickreme, Candace Mootoo, Christine Fountain, Andrew Rasmussen, Eranda Jayawickreme, Rebecca F. Bertuccio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations

Abstract

A growing body of literature indicates that the mental distress experienced by survivors of war is a function of both experienced trauma and stressful life events. However, the majority of these studies are limited in that they 1) employ models of psychological distress that emphasize underlying latent constructs and do not allow researchers to examine the unique associations between particular symptoms and various stressors; and 2) use one or more measures that were not developed for that particular context and thus may exclude key traumas, stressful life events and symptoms of psychopathology. The current study addresses both these limitations by 1) using a novel conceptual model, network analysis, which assumes that symptoms covary with each other not because they stem from a latent construct, but rather because they represent meaningful relationships between the symptoms; and 2) employing a locally developed measure of experienced trauma, stressful life problems and symptoms of psychopathology. Over the course of 2009–2011, 337 survivors of the Sri Lankan civil war were administered the Penn-RESIST-Peradeniya War Problems Questionnaire (PRPWPQ). Network analysis revealed that symptoms of psychopathology, problems pertaining to lack of basic needs, and social problems were central to the network relative to experienced trauma and other types of problems. After controlling for shared associations, social problems in particular were the most central, significantly more so than traumatic events and family problems. Several particular traumatic events, stressful life events and symptoms of psychopathology that were central to the network were also identified. Discussion emphasizes the utility of such network models to researchers and practitioners determining how to spend limited resources in the most impactful way possible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-132
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume190
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Daily stressors
  • Network analysis
  • Sri Lanka
  • Trauma
  • War survivors
  • War trauma

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