The Psychological Well-being of Professional Armed Forces Personnel Facing Child Soldiers


This chapter represents a review of all current literature relating to the potentially  traumatizing experience on professional armed forces of fighting child soldiers. The literature search uncovered very little data relating specifically to the issue of psychological impact.


This chapter represents the literature review task on the topic of 'Psychological well-being of professional armed forces personnel facing child soldiers. This task has been carried out under the 'Preparing People for Operations' contract let to the Haldane-Spearman Consortium, led by QinetiQ. The aim of the task was to review all current literature relating to the psychological impact of fighting child soldiers on professional armed forces and to report on the findings. The primary aim of the exercise was to identify where material existed that could be used by MoD to address issues concerning child soldiers. An additional aim was to assist MoD in identifying further areas of research to enable it to develop training material for pre-deployment and inform patient treatment post deployment with regards to the issue of engagement of child soldiers. A final aim was to identify potential attendees for a conference that MoD as part of a NATO working group intends to hold. To ensure that all potential sources of data were contacted and reviewed, HVR drew up a list of categories to which sources were placed. This list included military institutions, academic institutions, libraries, Government & Non-Government Organisations, as well as targeted searches on the internet and media publications/radio programmes. The literature search has uncovered very little data relating specifically to the psychological impact of child soldiers on armed forces personnel. This in itself is an important finding, showing a lack of knowledge in this field and thus highlighting the level of research that MoD will have to carry out to support its own forces. The report has therefore focused on defining child soldiers, and describing the context in which they operate and the problems they pose. The data have been presented thematically, drawing out key findings and learning points for armed forces personnel. The findings highlight that the issues that need to be addressed encompass across many different areas of responsibility, including legal guidelines, cultural awareness (both of our own and of the host nation's culture) as well as military doctrine and tactics. Public perception and media reporting also seem to impact upon how a soldier deals with any child soldier engagement, enforcing our own cultural framework (western values and morals for example) onto a situation in which it may not be applicable. The recommendations of this chapter seek to address the apparent 'black hole' of knowledge relating to the support of soldiers deployed in areas where child soldiers operate. They outline a comprehensive approach to supporting the armed forces personnel at all levels and at all stages of their operational life. Such a comprehensive approach needs to be prioritised and this ought to be validated through discussions with personnel with first-hand experience of engaging with child soldiers, thereby ensuring that any work undertaken has face validity and is of operational value.

Full Reference

Mircica, A. D. et al. 'The psychological well-being of professional armed forces personnel facing child soldiers', in Child Soldiers as the Opposing Force, NATO Research and Technology Organisation (2011).