Traumatic Stress Symptoms, Forgiveness, and Meaning in Life in Four Traumatized Regions of the World

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The present study examined self-reported levels of traumatic stress symptoms, forgiveness, and meaning in life in residents of regions experiencing ongoing violence (Middle East), recent past violence (Africa), distant past violence and disaster (Caucasus), and recent natural disaster (Caribbean). The sample included 900 individuals from Africa (Kenya n = 149; Burundi n = 104; Rwanda n = 57), the Middle East (Israel n = 34; Jordan n = 22; Palestine n = 220), the Caucasus (Armenia n = 109), and the Caribbean (Haiti n = 205). Analyses of covariance controlling for demographic factors revealed significant regional differences. Violent ongoing trauma in the Middle East and recent violent trauma in African countries were associated with higher traumatic stress symptoms than in the Caribbean where trauma was nonviolent and in the Caucasus region where trauma was quite distant. Forgiveness levels were lowest among participants in the Middle East and highest in Africa. Meaning in life was also lowest in the Middle East. There is wide diversity in the sociocultural traumatic events and calamities that befall societies; those events have unique impacts on survivors’ levels of traumatic stress symptoms, forgiveness, and meaning in life. Counselors, clergy, aid-workers, and policymakers should be apprised of the range of sociocultural traumatic experiences and associated differential outcomes.

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