Child soldiers: children associated with fighting forces

Around the world, an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 children are involved in armed conflict. Children can be abducted into a fighting force to fight or serve as sex slaves. Child soldiers have depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress symptoms; however, evidence is mixed because of methodologic limitations. Various mental health interventions have been tried, with promising results. Child and adolescent psychiatrists are uniquely trained in understanding and assisting youth to heal from such extraordinary experiences. A public health paradigm could include interventions that are based on a comprehensive assessment of interweaving developmental, biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.

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