Research in Ongoing Conflict Zones
Effects of a school-based intervention for Palestinian children
Using a cross-sectional cohort design, this study examined the effects of a psychosocial program for Palestinian adolescents across 4 years post-implementation. A questionnaire was developed for the assessment of psychosocial well-being in West Bank schoolchildren. Results supported the hypothesis that children who participated in the intervention would exhibit higher questionnaire scores than control children. However, results did not support the hypothesis that psychosocial well-being would be lower in children for whom more time had passed since the intervention. Possible interpretations for these findings are presented, including the possible confounding effects of external sociopolitical variables such as teachers' strikes and civil infighting.
A total of 877 adolescents (476 boys and 401 girls) between the ages of 13 and 15 years were selected from the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades of 23 schools within Qabatia district. These participants comprised an intervention group (n=399) with children who had received the intervention during their fifth- or sixth-grade year (when they were between the ages of 10 and 12), and a waitlist control group (n=349). The School-Based Psychosocial Program provides 20 standardized workshops for children inspired by the CABAC Balkans program and modified for the Palestinian context. The program is gender neutral and includes girls', boys', and mixed schools for fifth- and sixth-grade children (10–12 years of age). The SBPSP also provides 10 community workshops that address community members of all ages; these workshops are flexible in content to meet the needs of each particular community in which they are implemented. The duration of the program is 1 full school year; summer activities are provided for children in the first to sixth grade (7–12 years of age).
The results of this study supported our first hypothesis, which stated that the overall psychosocial well-being of the intervention group (children who participated in the SBPSP) would be greater than that of the control group (children who did not participate in the program at all). Our second hypothesis, which stated that psychosocial well-being would be lesser in children for whom more years had passed since the intervention, was not supported by the data. Rather, we found that the positive psychosocial effects of the intervention were greater at 1, 3, and 4 years after the intervention, but not for the cohort sampled at 2 years post intervention.