Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection

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Overview

Compelling and humane, this book reveals the lives of the 300,000 child soldiers around the world, challenging stereotypes of them as predators or a lost generation. Kidnapped or lured by the promise of food, protection, revenge, or a better life, children serve not only as combatants but as porters, spies, human land mine detectors, and sexual slaves. Nearly one-third are girls, and Michael Wessells movingly reveals the particular dangers they face from pregnancy, childbirth complications, and the rejection they and their babies encounter in their local contexts.

Based mainly on participatory research and interviews with hundreds of former child soldiers worldwide, Wessells allows these ex-soldiers to speak for themselves and reveal the enormous complexity of their experiences and situations. The author argues that despite the social, moral, and psychological wounds of war, a surprising number of former child soldiers enter civilian life, and he describes the healing, livelihood, education, reconciliation, family integration, protection, and cultural supports that make it possible. A passionate call for action, Child Soldiers pushes readers to go beyond the horror stories to develop local and global strategies to stop this theft of childhood.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

Provides a thorough introduction to the myriad problems and possibilities associated with an estimated 300,000 children who participate in military units on almost every continent.
— P. G. Conway

Wilson Quarterly

In the past few years, the body of literature devoted to the use of child soldiers—political and security analyses, sociological explorations, case studies of specific conflicts—has been growing. But largely unheard in these books are the voices of the child soldiers themselves...[Michael Wessells] now fills that gap in the literature with an admirable work based not just on his own extensive research but on interviews with hundreds of former child soldiers.
— J. Peter Pham

Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare

Given the recent bestselling memoir of a child soldier, Wessells's empirically driven book is a timely contribution of psychological insight that debunks gloomy notions of child soldiers as damaged goods beyond repair. Wessells's optimism is buoyed with accounts of former child soldiers successfully reintegrated into civilian life. He links the need to protect children in conflict to the foundation of peaceful societies...The discussion on the difficulty of separating victims from perpetrators underlines Wessels's main point that children soldiers are the result of adult exploitation of children...This is an important book for students of all levels interested in children's rights and post-conflict reconstruction, and serves as a guide to practitioners working in this area.
— David K. Androff

Neil Boothby
This is a crucial book. Human rights activists, physicians, and citizens around the world recognize the need to find effective interventions for child soldiers, but up to now we have lacked systematic information about them. Wessells discusses all of the major concerns: how boys and girls are recruited or enticed into guerrilla groups; how they are affected by violence, deprivation, and abuse; the role of culture and healing; and the actions we must take to save youngsters from guerrilla groups and send them home. Child Soldiers will be a cornerstone for research--and for action.
Choice - P. G. Conway
Provides a thorough introduction to the myriad problems and possibilities associated with an estimated 300,000 children who participate in military units on almost every continent.
Wilson Quarterly - J. Peter Pham
In the past few years, the body of literature devoted to the use of child soldiers--political and security analyses, sociological explorations, case studies of specific conflicts--has been growing. But largely unheard in these books are the voices of the child soldiers themselves...[Michael Wessells] now fills that gap in the literature with an admirable work based not just on his own extensive research but on interviews with hundreds of former child soldiers.
Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare - David K. Androff
Given the recent bestselling memoir of a child soldier, Wessells's empirically driven book is a timely contribution of psychological insight that debunks gloomy notions of child soldiers as damaged goods beyond repair. Wessells's optimism is buoyed with accounts of former child soldiers successfully reintegrated into civilian life. He links the need to protect children in conflict to the foundation of peaceful societies...The discussion on the difficulty of separating victims from perpetrators underlines Wessels's main point that children soldiers are the result of adult exploitation of children...This is an important book for students of all levels interested in children's rights and post-conflict reconstruction, and serves as a guide to practitioners working in this area.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674032552
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/30/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 302
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Wessells is an experienced child protection practitioner with Christian Children's Fund and Professor at Columbia University and Randolph-Macon College.
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Table of Contents

  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations

  1. Child Victims, Young Combatants
  2. Entry into Armed Groups
  3. Inside Armed Groups
  4. Girl Soldiers
  5. Health and HIV/AIDS
  6. The Invisible Wounds of War
  7. Putting Down the Gun
  8. The Transition to Civilian Life
  9. Community Reconciliation, Justice, and Protection
  10. Prevention

  • References
  • Index

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