Special Issue: Children and Armed Conflict – Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology
Wars such as those in Syria and Sudan, the murderous rampages of Boko Haram and ISIS, and the forced recruitment of young people into armed groups and terrorist organizations provide a reminder of how deadly and long-term contemporary wars are for children and civilian populations. In most war zones, children comprise half or more of the population. Subjected to violence and accumulating risks, children carry a heavy burden of distress yet frequently lack the supports they need for healing and developing a constructive future. Without effective intervention, children such as child soldiers are at risk of continuing cycles of violence.
A new approach is needed to better understand and help children in conflict situations. For the most part, humanitarian assessments and interventions to promote children’s well-being have been adult-led and top-down, and many have been insensitive to local culture and context. The development of appropriate supports for war-affected children requires deeper listening to and engagement with children to discern their needs and lived experiences. It also requires critical thinking about issues of power and culture, ethics, and how to intervene in appropriate ways.
To help address these critical issues, Peace & Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology published a special issue, which features leading researchers, practitioners, and policy analysts. This issue brings forward empirical, child-led, participatory work that deepens the understanding of the lived experiences of children affected by armed conflict. The second issue, to be published in February 2017, will examine what kinds of interventions at both practice and policy levels are necessary in order to support war-affected children. Spanning several continents and integrating conceptual frameworks related to children’s social ecologies and resilience, the two issues simultaneously deepen our contextual understanding of war-affected children and inspire concerted action to enable healing, peace, and social justice for children in settings of war and political violence.
Children and Armed Conflict: Introduction and Overview
This article by CPC faculty affiliate Michael Wessells provides an overview of the papers in the special issue and situates them in the context of the recent changes in the developing study of children and armed conflict. It emphasizes resilience approaches and movement away from deficits frameworks that underscore disorders such as PTSD. It also identifies numerous obstacles to achieving a comprehensive understanding of war-affected children.
Navigating Support, Resilience, and Care: Exploring the Impact of Informal Social Networks on the Rehabilitation and Care of Young Female Survivors of Sexual Violence in Northern Uganda
This article by CPC director Lindsay Stark, Debbie Landis, Blake Thomson and Alina Potts examines the experiences of young female survivors of sexual violence in northern Uganda to explore the variety of roles(both positive and negative) that informal support networks played in contributing to survivors’ healing and recovery. Findings offer important insights to inform the development of response initiatives that build upon community-based networks while also strengthening linkages between formal and informal forms of support in the lives of survivors.
Trajectories of Violence and Survival: Turnings and Adaptations in the Lives of Two War-Affected Youth Living in Canada
This article by CPC faculty affiliate Myriam Denov and Natasha Blanchet-Cohen seeks to trace the trajectories, voices, and lived experiences of two war-affected youth living in Canada across time and contexts. Through their narratives, the youth highlight the turnings and adaptations that informed their decision-making during war, flight, and resettlement to Canada alongside the challenges and opportunities within each of these key phases of their lives.
Recruitment of Child Soldiers in Nepal: Mental Health Status and Risk Factors for Voluntary Participation of Youth in Armed Groups
This article by CPC faculty affiliate Wietse A. Tol and colleagues aims to identify risk factors for voluntarily joining armed groups as well as to test the association of conscription status and mental health. Prevention of voluntary association with armed groups could be supported through attending to difficulties in daily life, identifying nonviolent paths to achieve life goals, and challenging the political philosophy of armed groups. Among boys, addressing economic risk factors may prevent recruitment, and prevention efforts for girls need to address personal connections to armed groups as such connections have important implications for preventing recruitment through new methods, such as social media.
Emic Perspectives on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-Being: Applying a Social Ecological Framework of Resilience in Norther Sri Lanka
This article by CPC faculty affiliate Wietse A. Tol and colleagues examine the impact of armed conflict on the mental health of children and youth. Using a theoretical framework of ecological resilience, they identify examples of resources for children at the individual, family, and community levels. Mental health services in Sri Lanka could be improved by building on local mental health conceptualizations and available resources, especially with regard to rebuilding links between individual, family, and community structures.