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Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology: Children and Armed Conflict – February 2017

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Special Issue: Children and Armed Conflict – Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology

Peace & Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology published a second special issue, which examines 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: Interventions for supporting war-affected children

This article by CPC faculty affiliate Mike Wessells introduces the 2nd Special Issue on Children and Armed Conflict and outlines 3 pillars of systemic supports for war-affected children: comprehensiveness, sustainability, and Do No Harm. It shows how supports should be multileveled, resilience-oriented, multidisciplinary, tailored to fit different subgroups, and attentive to issues of policy and funding. The achievement of sustainability requires additional attention to building on existing supports, adapting to the local culture and context, focusing more on capacity building than on projects, greater power sharing with local actors, embedding supports in local institutions, and strengthening the evidence base regarding sustainability. The Do No Harm principle requires self-critical practice and the prevention and management of unintended harms related to issues such as discrimination, the use of orphanages as the first resort for war orphans and separated children, raised expectations, dependency, and picking open the psychological wounds of war-affected children. With these pillars as a framework, the article ends with a brief overview of the 8 articles that comprise this 2nd Special Issue. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Where there is no intervention: Insights into processes of resilience supporting war-affected children

This article by CPC faculty affiliate Alastair Ager and Janna Metzler argues that data from comparison groups has major value when there is no intervention. It represents a major untapped source of reflection on processes of resilience in humanitarian contexts. They use as a foundation for their analysis 3 studies completed over the last decade which examined the impact of protective and psychosocial interventions for war-affected children in Sierra Leone and Uganda. The interventions considered include programs fostering reintegration of formerly abducted children, prompting structured activities in schools, and establishing child-friendly spaces in refugee settlements. In each case, however, their focus is not on the group that received greatest attention in the original reports—the children receiving the intervention—but on those that did not. Analysis indicates the powerful forces which promote recovery in situations of conflict and the need for interventions to be more mindful that their core function is to bolster such engagement and not seek to drive recovery. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

U.S. Government action plan on children in adversity: In pursuit of a coherent foreign assistance framework for vulnerable children

This article by CPC founding directorNeil Boothby describes the development of the U.S. Government’s first whole-of-government foreign assistance policy for children growing up in conditions of severe deprivation and danger. It begins with an overview of the main challenges in pursuing a coordinated foreign assistance approach across multiple agencies, including the role of research and science. It then presents the core and supportive objectives in the U.S. Government’s Action Plan for Children in Adversity, followed by a discussion on implementation challenges and recommended next steps to further invest in children. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Protecting young children from violence in Colombia: Linking caregiver empathy with community child rights indicators as a pathway for peace in Medellin’s Comuna 13

This article by Philip Cook, Elaina Mack, and Manuel Manrique presents an overview of the case study methodology and preliminary findings of a 3-year applied research initiative.The initiative built the capacity for caregiver empathy combining a positive parenting approach with community early learning strengths, child rights, and community empowerment methods. Case study research documenting the application of this model in Comuna 13, a Colombian community with high levels of civil conflict, showed that this integrated empathy and empowerment approach resulted in improved outcomes for children and their families. At the community level the initiative strengthened municipal formal and nonformal child protection systems, including the creation of “pathways for peace,” or zones of peace in violent neighborhoods. The findings are summarized in relation to contextual, assets approaches to peace-building with vulnerable children, and families at the center of restorative practice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Our stories, our own ways: Exploring alternatives for young people’s engagement in truth commissions

This article by CPC faculty affiliate Cheryl Heykoop and Juliet Adoch present findings that strongly contrast with the dominant method of one-off individual statement taking used to engage young people in truth commissions. Rather, the methods and processes described by young people reflect the core values and principles of participatory action research and holistic psychosocial interventions. According to young people, postconflict truth-telling processes should (a) support safe and meaningful engagement, (b) balance participation and protection, (c) facilitate individual and collective healing, and (d) contribute to enhanced well-being and empowerment. There is an urgent call for further research and critical reflection to strengthen the evidence base to safely and meaningfully engage young people in truth commissions and as active citizens in postconflict healing and recovery. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

The Hunger Games: Theorizing opportunities for peace education

This article by Siobhan McEvoy-Levy discusses a popular fiction series about children and armed conflict and its implications for peace education. A massive fandom has grown up around Suzanne Collins’ young adult (YA) trilogy The Hunger Games (Collins, 2008), Catching Fire (Collins, 2009), and Mockingjay (Collins, 2010). Describing economic inequality, government oppression, torture, war, revolution, and children as combatants, The Hunger Games series explores harsh realities of contemporary world politics and its impact on children. But these novels also point to sources of resilience and healing and a vision of peace rooted in gender equity, rejection of violence, and remembering the costs of war. This paper explains how educators can draw out these themes through classroom discussions and activities. The paper shows how The Hunger Games series can be taught as a vehicle for coming to terms with “the other in ourselves” (Reardon, 1996, p. 51), recognizing our own capacity for violence, but also our capacity for empathy and for transcending violence, polarization and gender stereotypes. Additionally, it shows that the series has inspired and been used by young activists involved in struggles for social justice, and argues that a potentially important but underutilized vehicle for peace education is found in such fandom practices. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Raising children in conflict: An integrative model of parenting in war

This article by Katie Maeve Murphy, Katherine Rodrigues, Jaime Costigan, and Jeannie Annan presents an analysis of the socioecological factors that influence parenting behaviors and describes a conceptual framework for understanding the predictors of parenting in war to guide intervention design and research. This article reviews existing evidence of parenting programs in low- and middle-income countries and finds indications of effective models for improving parenting behaviors and child development, albeit with wide variation in the program curricula, structure, and delivery method. Finally, this article underscores the need for program models that specifically address the complex factors influencing parenting in times of war and provides recommendations for further research and practice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Transformative spaces in the social reintegration of former child soldier young mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Northern Uganda

This article by Angela Veale, Miranda Worthen, and Susan McKay reflects on learning from a participatory action research (PAR) study which aimed to facilitate the social reintegration of formerly associated young mothers and other war-affected vulnerable young mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and northern Uganda. They argue that it is useful to delineate 3 nodes of individual-community relations which they identify as possible transformative spaces in psychosocial programming for social reintegration: the intersection between individual emotional experience and the emotional climate, between individual agency and public engagement, and between individual and community resilience. The PAR study involved 658 young war-affected mothers across 20 communities in the 3 countries. The results demonstrate how the PAR mobilized positive emotions and aligned the activities of the young mothers’ groups with individuals with power to facilitate change (community leaders) and contributed to limited transformative change. Further research is needed on engaging men and on tackling structural factors in interventions with war-affected young mothers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Resilience in the context of war: A critical analysis of contemporary conceptions and interventions to promote resilience among war-affected children and their surroundings

This article by Sofie Vindevogel reviews contemporary individualistic conceptions and applications of resilience in the context of children and armed conflict, and discusses its potential implications against the backdrop of the inherently interrelated notions of self-determination, self-responsibility, and self-help. Scholars, practitioners, and policymakers are invited to reflect critically about the political dimension attached to such approaches and about the importance of also addressing macrostructural factors that are strongly interconnected with aspects of resilience on other levels. In response to this critical analysis, a relational approach to the resilience of war-affected children is advanced. This approach comprises individual, collective, institutional, and political spheres of influence and emphasizes the importance of the relational dynamics that facilitate transaction within and across these spheres. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Journal Article
Children and Armed Conflict: Interventions for Supporting War-Affected Children
Michael G. Wessells
Year of Publication

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