The Psychological Impact on Children Soldiers

Last Updated: 17 Apr 2020
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Some are abducted or forcibly recruited, others are driven to Join by poverty, abuse and discrimination, or to seek revenge for violence enacted against hem or their families. There is legislation in place that makes illegal any involvement of children under age 18 in hostilities, however it is still rampant throughout the world. The use of Children in war is an epidemic that has plagued humanity since the earliest civilizations and has developed through time. In medieval times in Europe, young boys from about twelve years of age were used as military aids called squires, though their role in actual combat was supposed to be limited.

In 1212, the Estevez 2 Children's Crusade rounded up thousands of children, with the notion that they will ucceed in battle due to divine powers that will ensure their victory. In 1814, Napoleon was faced with an invasion and recruited many teenagers for his armies aged between fourteen and seventeen. During the 1800's and the age of sail, young boys formed part of the crew of British Royal Navvy ships and responsible for many important tasks. Even during the Civil War a 15 year old received the Medal of Honor for his acts during the Civil War Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in American history.

People under the age of eighteen fought in world war one and world war two, even beside the fact it was illegal. They had age restrictions, but due to the patriotism, of the boys, and the conditions of England they accepted some and others passed by into the military. In Cambodia, during the Vietnam War, a communist group exploited thousands of desensitized children, recruiting them to commit mass murders and other inhuman acts during the genocide in Cambodia. They were brainwashed and taught to follow any orders without any hesitation.

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I find this a betrayal of the responsibility adults have towards children. In the 16th and 17th centuries, childhood began to be recognized as a different state then adulthood. Society began to see children not as miniature adults, but as a person of a lower level of maturity needing the protection, love, and nurturing of an adult to guide them through that stage of their lives. This was the change in society that transitioned to children being given less responsibility than adults.

The division Estevez 3 of children and adults became officially recognized, however it didn't eliminate the abuse of children. The use of children in battle and wars has been around for a long time, but has taken a new form in todays society due to the improvement of technology. The early 1900's are regarded as a huge development of war weapons, with the creation of the fully automatic rifle. Through the century, they have involvement of children in modern conflicts that typically involve irregular forces; they usually target civilians. 80% of the fighting forces composed of child soldiers, this is one characterization of the 'new wars,' which constitute the dominant form of violent conflict that has emerged only over the last few decades" (Schauer and Elbert). The motivation for armies or soldiers to recruit children to be use in war is that children have a limited ability to asses risk. It is easier to manipulate the mind of a child than it is a mind of an adult. They have feelings of invulnerability, shortsightedness, and cost less money. Children receive fewer resources, including less and smaller weapons and equipment.

They are more likely to get killed or injured in the front lines than their adult counter parts. Children and young adults who are facing poverty, starvation, unemployment, and ethnic or political persecution, can be lured by the idea of becoming a soldier to escape the pain they feel. In interviews from "The Psychological Impact of Child Soldiering" they say, "that hildren are more malleable and adaptable. Thus, they are Estevez 4 easier to indoctrinate, as their moral development is not yet completed and they tend to listen to authorities without questioning them" (Schauer and Elbert).

The conflicts that use children in the battlefield usually start by the breakdown of a government. It becomes difficult to identify those who are recruiting and using children as soldiers, making it difficult to influence them to stop. Child soldiers typically raised in environments of severe violence are often made to commit the worst cruelties and atrocities. The children would be repeatedly exposed to these traumatic stress', during the most crucial stages of development. This caused mental and physical damages changing their personalities.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is also a common disorder found in children solders, because they are so young they become deprived from a normal and healthy development, impairing their integration into society as a fully functioning being. During the twentieth century the proportion of civilian casualties in armed conflicts has continually increased and is now estimated to be more than ninety percent. Half of the casualties are children, and more than 2 million died as a result of armed conflicts over the last decade.

In addition to that, at least 6 million children have been seriously injured and between 8,000 and 10,000 children are killed by landmines every year (UNICEF, 2005). Seven of the ten countries with the highest rates of deaths of children under the age of five are due to the affects of armed conflicts in the countries. Estevez 5 In "The Psychological Impact of Child Soldiering", they interview three people who had been child soldiers. The first interview was of a sixteen year old boy who had een an active recruit for three years since the age of thirteen, for the group, Mai- Mat.

His recruitment process was a lot more civil than the other two. He stated that, "l was frightened, since our home was attacked almost every night by bandits and other rebel groups as well, what did I have to lose? Also my parents were too poor to send me to school anymore my mind was made up fast, I Joined my friends and from that boy had served five years after being recruited at age fourteen. He says, "350 strokes were given on my back and buttocks. After a while the pain was so big that I felt that t would be better if I was dead.....

But then I heard a loud voice: "Get up. " I tried, but I couldn't sit. I kneeled for almost one hour. I realized that all other children around me had died in the beating. I could see them lying still and not breathing" (Schauer and Elbert 7-8). The next boy was recruited at 13 and served three years as a child soldier, he explains how they would kill other soldiers as punishment, "When people did something really wrong, they got killed as a punishment .. .1 have seen 5 people being killed for severe disobedience during my time with the group.

They were crucified in the forest. Nailed to trees at their hands and feet higher up on tall trees. The nails were thick ones, you would first nail through the palms of the hand and later through the feet" (Schauer and Elbert). Estevez 6 It may seem to the individual that some children Join these groups with their own free will, but in a psychological and social point of view, children's choices to Join and remain in armed groups cannot be considered Voluntary. There are reasons or circumstances that may lead children to be more accessible to Join a militant group.

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The Psychological Impact on Children Soldiers. (2018, Jul 16). Retrieved from

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