Cultural Considerations when Working with Children from Violence-Affected Regions of Central Nigeriac

Cultural Considerations when Working with Children from Violence-Affected Regions of Central Nigeria


Children exposed to the social problems associated with political violence such as murder, sexual violence, looting and property destruction are likely to suffer from psychological problems, especially if they have witnessed their relatives and friends die from these acts. Currently, central Nigeria is undergoing violence perpetrated by political and religious differences, which has affected many people, including young children. Many have become refugees in other regions, but their psychological statuses have been affected to an extent that most of them need special and urgent psychological and medical interventions. Therefore, the purpose of this discussion is to provide an elaborate criteria through which I will provide a psychological intervention in providing relief to the children aged 9 to 13 years after their rescue from a make-up refugee camp in Nigeria. Currently, the children have been provided refuge in London, where I work as a child psychologist.

Psychological effects of armed violence that the children from Nigeria

Theoretically and practically, children exposed to armed violence are likely to have witnessed massive murders, shootings, rapes, sexual assaults and other ills associated with such kinds of violence (Anthony & Cohler, 2008). Media reports indicate that some of these aspects of violence are evident in central Nigeria. Therefore, it is important to provide an analysis of the possible impacts of armed violence on the children under our care.

First, the children are likely to have trauma of different degrees, depending on age, gender and the level of exposure to violence during their stay in their country (Eitinger & Strum, 2007). According to the theory by Sigmund Freud, trauma is an etiological factor as well as a subsequent causal factor of childhood development and psychological status (Anthony & Cohler, 2008). The drive theory suggests that posttraumatic stress disorder is one major condition that affects people exposed to various forms of crimes and violence. For instance, the theory suggest that the children are likely to experience repetitive dreaming and/or imagery of the events, re-experiencing repeatedly over the traumatic event in order to achieve a sense of control (Freud & Burlingham, 2001). The children will not make a spontaneous recovery but will experience long-term defects of their ego. This is likely to result into impoverished functioning of individual ego, less interest in their surroundings as wells as limited functioning of individual personality. Secondly, the children are likely to proceed towards developmental resilience (Freud & Burlingham, 2001). They develop a sense of fear and lack of freedom. To the children, any other person is likely to be an enemy or a perpetrator of violence. They are also likely to develop poor relationships with other people due to the internal fear that developed after they witnessed people killing, assaulting or raping each other.

Gender and age are two major aspects that determine the degree to which developmental resilience or trauma affects the children. For instance, children aged between 7 and 15 years are old enough to remember the events throughout their lives. Therefore, it is quite difficult to encourage these children to forget the events, especially if they involve violence against their relatives, friends or close people in the society (Ayalon, 2009). Secondly, girls are more likely to be affected by sexual assault than boys. In fact, during political and civil violence, girls aged as young as 4 years as well as adolescents are likely victims of sexual violence, including rapes (Freud & Burlingham, 2001). I therefore expect that the girls from Nigeria are likely to be victims of such violence.

Intervention program

In providing intervention services to the children, a number of aspects need to be considered. However, the children should first be provided with basic needs such as food, clothing, decent housing and love. In fact, we will first work with the children to ensure that they have access to these services. Secondly, we will ensure that we try to interact with the children as a group in order to provide them with orientation into their new home. They will be encouraged to accept the new residence as “home” in order to ensure that they at least relieve their stress upon leaving their former homes. In this process, they must be shown real love in order to replace their parental and social love that has been disrupted by war.

It is important to consider individual needs for every child. First, every child will receive counselling depending on the experiences and exposure to violent events. It is likely that some of the children were exposed to violence of higher degree than others, including murder, physical assault or sexual assault on their parents, siblings or close relatives. Others may not have experienced such degrees of violence. Therefore, individual children will be assigned to a counsellor in order to narrate their story and ensure that the counsellor understand their needs (Ayalon, 2009). Secondly, every child will need to live as a family, especially if their familial attachment has been disrupted. It is necessary to ensure that the children and social workers live as a family, with the workers providing them with the love and care they need. By showing them that their fellow refugee children are part of the family, the counsellors will develop a new mentality in each child that each of them have the same problem. It will also ensure that each child is concerned with their colleagues, and is willing to provide support if necessary (Ayalon, 2009). In this way, it is possible to achieve a prevention program that will not only foster resilience, but also break the likely cycle of violence among themselves in the new residences.

Cultural universality is a perspective that views people from different cultures as having a universal or same culture. It considers that there is a common truth or way of life among all cultures, regardless of their origins (Pinxten, 2006). It assumes that such differences as cultural and language variability to the superficial differences that should not provide a clear distinction between people based on language and cultures (Sadon, 2007). Thus, the children’s basic needs are the same- decent living defined by food, shelter, clothing, love and decent recognition as equal members of the society. On the other hand, cultural specificity defines humanity as dividend according to cultures (Pinxten, 2006). Each culture provides a different and constant stream of inputs from the society and family every person is brought up in. Those inputs influence the way every person think, behave, get attracted to things, events, and perceptions towards life. It is necessary to reconcile the two states when dealing with different cultures. In the case of the children from central Nigeria, there are evidence differences based on their cultures. For instance, while some are Muslims, others are Christians or from traditional African religions. Secondly, the children are from different tribes. For instance, tribes such as Hausa, Fulani, the Igbo and Yoruba are well represented in central Nigeria. Although these children are different in terms of their cultures, their basic needs are universal (Pinxten, 2006). However, they have different perceptions towards various things, based on where they come from. Therefore, it is necessary to consider these aspects when designing an intervention program.

For example, Nigerian cultural traditions are exemplified by such elements as dances, music and food. It is likely that the children consider these elements as part of their traditions. For instance, offering (or denying) food to another person is likely to be a sign of appreciation (or disregard) of the person, which therefore affects their relationships.

When dealing with the children, it is also important to consider the psychological code of ethics. For instance, we need to restrict the counsellors and other social workers from interfering with the children’s perception on cultures and traditions. For example, it is necessary to ensure that each child’s religion is held with respect, regardless of the counsellor’s perception towards the religion. Secondly, it is necessary for the counsellors to uphold the traditions of the children and to avoid making them believe that British traditions are more superior or even ideal to the children (American psychological association, 2010).


American psychological association, APA. (2010). Ethics and Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct 2010. New York: APA.

Anthony, E. J., & Cohler, B. J. (2008). The Invulnerable Child. New York and London, Guilford Press.

Ayalon, O. (2009). Community Oriented Preparation for Emergency (C. O. P. E.). Journal of Death Education, 3(4), 222 – 441.

Eitinger, L., & Strum, A. (2007). Mortality and Morbidity after Excessive Stress. New York: Humanistic Press.

Freud, A., & Burlingham, D. (2001). War and Children. New York Willard Press.

Pinxten, R. (2006). Epistemic Universals: A Contribution to Cognitive Anthropology. The Hague: Mouton.

Sadon, G. (2007). The Organ Works of Fela Sowande: Cultural Perspectives. New York: iUniverse Publishing.


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