Daily images from war zones around the world illustrate the degree to which children are direct victims of war violence and exposed to the victimization of others, both in their families and in their communities.
How Many Children Are Affected
Paramijit Joshi and her colleagues suggest that measuring child exposure in war zones is very difficult. Citing UN reports, they suggest that in one decade from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, over 2 million children were killed in wars, 4 million were injured, and another 10 million were traumatized
How Children Are Exposed To War
Joshi and her colleagues also suggest that children experience a series of consequences from war exposure, including (a) loss of loved ones, (b) family stress and change, (c) dislocation, (d) living with distressed adults, (e) loss of traditional communities, (f) lack of educational opportunities, (g) poor physical and community environments, and (h) being socialized to use and approve of violence.
James Garbarino and his colleagues have researched this issue in a number of locations around the globe and identified four themes similar to those identified by Joshi and colleagues. First, children face many increased risks in war zones. These include dislocation, increased poverty, multiple losses, and much more. Garbarino and his colleagues suggest, in line with other resilience researchers, that efforts be made to reduce risks and also shore up both children’s own abilities to cope and the social networks of family, friends, and neighbors who surround them. The second theme these researchers identify concerns not the children but the adults who care for them. War zones present adults—both in families and in communities— with great challenges in caring for their children. Adult caregivers also require support during times of war to enable them to in turn act in supportive ways for the children in their lives. The third and fourth themes concern the meaning children give to their situations. Ideology appears to motivate children in war zones. For example, if a positive and constructive framework for assigning meaning to war experiences can be created within children (for example, pitching in to help rebuild rather than destroy), Garbarino and his colleagues suggest that children may be less inclined to join in the violence around them. Related to this is the fourth and final theme of finding alternatives to violent revenge. The best revenge for children may be becoming constructive members of their community in response to the violence swirling around them.
- Garbarino, J., Dubrow, N., Kostelny, K., & Pardo, C. (1992). Children in danger: Coping with the consequences of community violence. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Joshi, P. T., O’Donnell, D. A., Cullins, L. M., & Lewin, S. M. (2006). Children exposed to war and terrorism. In
- M. Feerick & G. B. Silverman (Eds.), Children exposed to violence (pp. 53–84). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
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