How Empathic are War Veterans? An Examination of the Psychological Impacts of Combat Exposure
Forthcoming (revised version) in Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology
24 Pages Posted: 28 Aug 2017
Date Written: June 12, 2016
How empathic are battle-experienced war veterans and demobilized ex-combatants? Individuals who have participated in war-related violence tend to show an increased risk of mental health and trauma-related illnesses, depression, and drug abuse, which makes their re-adaptation to post-conflict civilian life much more difficult. This study is the first systematic attempt to date to provide an answer to the question of whether war experiences are potentially related to empathic deficit among veterans, and subsequently to their reintegration troubles. Based on a sample of 624 demobilized ex-guerrillas and ex-paramilitaries from the Colombian armed conflict, we identify three clearly distinct empathic profiles, suggesting that, while lack of empathy is not generalized among ex-combatants, there is an important sub-group of veterans who present such a dispositional profile. Identification of this critical sub-group will prove crucial to policies aimed at assisting post-conflict and post-war reintegration efforts.
Keywords: empathic dispositions; Interpersonal Reactivity Index; Latent Class Analysis; veterans; ex-combatants; armed conflict; Colombia
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