News Release| Child Development Journal - Sri Lanka study; Cal State L.A.


Note to news directors and editors: CSULA Professor Gaithri Fernando is available for interviews. She can be reached directly at or (323) 343-2260. 

Impact of trauma, daily stressors on
Sri Lankan children analyzed in CSULA professor’s study

Special section of ‘Child Development’ to focus on children and disaster

Los Angeles, CA – There is a need for policies and interventions that focus on reducing daily stressors that are impacting Sri Lankan children exposed to disasters, indicates a research paper featured in the July/August special section of the Child Development journal released today. 

Picture of Gaithri Fernando.

The paper, entitled “Growing Pains: The Impact of Disaster-related and Daily Stressors on the Psychological and Psychosocial Functioning of Youth in Sri Lanka,” looked at more than 400 Sri Lankan children, ages 11 to 20, who survived the 2004 tsunami and ongoing civil war.

We found that in spite of the trauma suffered through the war and disaster, we must not miss the importance of the ongoing stressors—such as poverty, family violence and lack of safe housing—that are directly affecting these youths’ psychological health,” said Gaithri Fernando, who led the study. Fernando is an associate professor of psychology and director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at California State University, Los Angeles.

The full text of the paper is available at    

Picture of Gaithri Fernando with counselors in Sri Lanka.
Pictured: Professor Gaithri Fernando (standing, second from the right) with counselors she trained in Sri Lanka in 2006.

A Los Angeles resident and a Sri Lanka native, Fernando is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing on the importance of cultural experience and expression of posttraumatic stress, in the context of war and extreme traumas such as torture. Her other areas of specialty include cross-cultural psychology and ethnic minority issues in psychology. She received her M.A. from Yale and Ph.D. from Fuller Graduate School of Psychology.

Fernando has worked extensively in Sri Lanka, conducting research and training programs. She has coordinated workshops for medical interns in Colombo, for domestic violence counselors, for teacher-counselors selected by the Ministry of Education, and for full-time ministry workers sponsoring a refugee camp. She has authored three published papers on the cultural aspects of mental health issues related to tsunami and Sri Lankans. She has presented several papers at the annual meetings of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies, the American Psychological Association, and the Western Psychological Association, addressing the cultural aspects of trauma. In the summer of 2008, she was awarded a grant by the Asia Foundation to conduct a study entitled “Risk, Resistance, Resilience, and Recovery Among Sri Lankans.”

Most recently, Fernando’s work was cited in a book examining western assumptions about mental health in developing nations authored by Ethan Watters (2010), entitled Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of American Psyche. She returned to Los Angeles early this month from visiting the London School of Economics, where she was invited to present a paper at a conference focusing on the Global Mental Health Movement. Papers from this conference will be published in a special issue of Transcultural Psychiatry.

In addition to Fernando, co-authors of the research paper published in Child Development include Kenneth E. Miller, formerly at the Harvard School of Public Health, and Dale E. Berger, Claremont Graduate University.

This study was made possible by funding from Pomona College, a grant from the Minority Biomedical Research Support program at Cal State L.A., and by material support from the Centre for Psychosocial Care, Sri Lanka.

For a related press release by the Society for Research in Child Development, go to

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