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Adolescents and War – How Youth Deal With Political Violence, Brian K Barber


Adolescents and War maps much of the real complexity that is war and youths’ response to it. The volume confirms the irony that most youth actually deal competently with the burdens of political violence—a reality that by no means absolves our responsibility to study and care for youths in conflict but rather compels sharper, more targeted efforts to know which youth do indeed suffer terribly and what factors equip or buffer others who do not. To this end, the work included in Adolescents and War focuses on salient features of violence, such as type, proximity, duration, and familiarity, and also investigates key mediating and moderating factors, such as social support and the attributed meaning of conflict. Importantly, the work also acknowledges that violence per se is but one feature of war environments and that broader forces associated with economic, ethnic, or political inequities and opportunities that often create and maintain conflict are critical to understanding youth functioning. Finally, Adolescents and War takes culture seriously, noting that a fundamental limitation of the traditional approach to studying violence and its stress effects is the privileging of individual psychological functioning at the expense of understanding that what matters more to most youth has to do with war’s impact on their families and societies, with their abilities to retain or regain connections with these groups, and with opportunities to achieve their educational and occupational ambitions in order to consolidate an identity within and contribute to these critical areas of their social and cultural lives.

from Oxford University Press: ” Hundreds of thousands of children are forced or legally recruited combatants in no fewer than 70 warring parties across the world. In addition to these child soldiers, thousands of youth voluntarily participate in politically related
conflict. Why, how, and in what capacities are such large numbers of teenagers involved in war and how are they affected? Adolescents and War brings together world experts in an evidence-based volume to thoroughly understand and document the intricacies of youth who have had substantial involvement in political violence. Contributors argue that the assumption that youth are automatically debilitated by the violence they experience is much too simplistic: effective care for youth must include an awareness of their motives and beliefs, the roles they played in the conflict, their relationships with others, and the opportunities available to them after their experiences with war. The book suggests that the meaning youth make of a conflict may protect them from mental harm. For example, Palestinian teens who were actively engaged in the first Intifada have fared better than Bosnian teens who were virtual sitting ducks to the sniper and grenade launches of the hidden forces during the siege of Sarajevo. Covering youth involvement in conflicts in Afghanistan, Angola, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine, and Bosnia, the volume will be of interest to psychologists, sociologists, and political scientists and should be adopted for courses in social psychology, crisis intervention, and international conflict.”



Blair, S. (2010). “Adolescents and War: How Youth Deal with Political Violence.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 39(8): 977-979.


Adolescents and War… is one of the very few compilations of research and real-life geographical examples on how war and its aftermath-related environments can affect youth. This book not only offers research findings, possible methodological models for future studies, and a conceptual framework to help readers appreciate equally both the debilitating aftermath of war and the resilience of some youth, but it also offers readers a compilation of well-documented chapters that are bound to have a significant impact on the field…This well-written, coherent book, which is backed up by empirical evidence, is a great vehicle for reaching researchers, practitioners, governments, and community people, and sensitizing to all of us to this timely, burning issue.”–PsycCritiques “In the long run, this may be one of the most important contributions of those who study in the context of political violence. Barber and his colleagues have made a good start in this excellent volume…Each of these young people has a story, but it would be a mistake to assume that these stories are inevitably, homogeneously, and irredeemably negative. This is a mistake made by much of the early research and professional commentary on this topic.”…“One of the potential contributions of the study of youth and political violence is to guide practitioners and policy makers towards more effective and humane responses. For example, the research on reintegration of child soldiers reported in the book provides a basis for effective programming around the world.” .” –James Garbarino, Political Psychology


“Our desire, as psychologists, to see the positive, the adaptive, and the competent in war-affected youths may often be driven at least in part, and very understandably, by our own despair and grief, and even guilt, at seeing so many millions of youths for whom, irrevocably, war and violence have become the “new normal.” The ultimate strength of Barber’s volume – and of Barber’s voice as it comes through the various chapters – l lies in that it does not ask us to think of war and violence as normative, even in the context of looking at a fuller range of youths’ experiences and capacities…“The proposition that researchers need to look for ways to unpack the global effects of political violence is timely and fruitful. The research presented in this volume contributes to the rapidly growing evidence that emotional distress and PTSD symptoms are not generalized outcomes of political violence. . . this volume encompasses a remarkably coherent collection of contributions, with some chapters discussing mediators or moderators and others examining indicators of competent functioning or using methodologies–such as narratives–that allow researchers to glean both negative and positive outcomes of violence exposure.” ” — Cecilia Wainryb, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology


“In an impressively coherent set of quantitative and qualitative contributions, the various authors in this book highlight the multiplicity of young people’s experiences and the diversity of their conflict roles.”…” this book underscores that researchers must strive to not only document the breadth of ‘what happens’ to young people in war, but also to delineate how adolescents themselves understand or make sense of such diverse experiences.”…“The volume edited by Brian Barber (2009) will delight most readers as it clearly highlights the very diverse experiences that youths mired in political conflict might be confronted with, as well as the heterogeneity of perspectives that adolescents may bring to bear on such experiences. By underscoring this complexity, Barber’s book provides considerable insight into the distinct processes that may underlie resilience for particular groups of youths.”– Holly E. Recchia and Cecilia Wainryb, Human Development