Their Crime is Being Born: Children born of war in the 20th century

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: History and Cultures


Children fathered by (foreign) soldiers and born to local women (children born of war - CBOW) have been a feature of warfare for centuries, yet they have remained largely unnoticed by public and academia.
The network plans to bring together researchers and practitioners seeking to develop a better understanding of the issues affecting CBOW. This will include historians, social scientists, philosophers, lawyers, ethicists and psychiatrists, the majority of whom already have established research records in their own fields. In addition, military personnel, NGOs dealing with children born of war in recent conflicts, policy makers (e.g. in the UN) and psychiatrists will be integrated in workshops and related research projects.
The network will focus on
- the collation and dissemination of existing literature, of previously collected survey and other data relating to children born of war in general and children of child soldiers (CCS) and of peace keepers (CP) in particular
- the development of an understanding of the specific problems experienced by CCS and CP through the facilitation of cross-disciplinary dialogue in the form of collaborative workshops involving academic researchers as well as practitioners and representatives of NGOs working with CBOW
- the adaptation of existing tools providing computer-assisted therapeutic help to discriminated, stigmatized and traumatized children for work with CBOW
- the utilisation of anonymised information provided by CBOW and their mothers through computer-assisted therapies on a larger scale to facilitate a better understanding of the situation of children and to allow a comparative analysis of CBOW, and particularly CCS and CP.
The above aims will be achieved through
- A two-day round-table
- A three-day workshop on CBOW during and after World War II
- Simultaneous three-day workshops of the working groups on CCS and CP
- A concluding two-day conference

Core foci of the interdisciplinary meetings are:
1) CBOW during and after Second World War: This is the only group of CBOW for which significant research data exists that allows an assessment of medium and long-term effects of traumatisation and discrimination. A working group will investigate the possibility of extending survey research previously carried out in Norway and Denmark to other geographical areas and to more recent conflicts in order to obtain a more comprehensive picture of the life courses of CBOW.
2) CCS and CP: Taking preliminary studies of CCS and CP as a starting point, a working group consisting of trauma researchers and front-line practitioners as well as social scientists will investigate the possibility of adapting virtual trauma psychotherapeutic approaches for work with CBOW. Furthermore, an interdisciplinary workshop involving among others psychiatrists, lawyers, social scientists and practitioners will examine the potential utilisation of data obtained in the process of computer-assisted testimonial therapy in order to study the life courses of CBOW in different historical settings. The development of a collaborative research agenda will focus on the use of a Multilingual Computer Assisted Self Interview, hitherto tested primarily by treating post-traumatic stress disorder in war victims. This tool that allows (illiterate) individuals to answer standardized questionnaires can overcome some key difficulties in treating war victims, displaced people and children, namely illiteracy, geographical limitations and/or limitations concerning psychotherapeutic treatment capacity. The working group will examine the potential of developing standardized questionnaires, taking into account the needs of the children in their distinct setting. Moreover, the group will further explore specific research issues to be identified by the interdisciplinary research team, taking into account the necessary ethical considerations associated with research in this area.

Planned Impact

The successful integration of marginalised societal groups is one of the key factors in the long-term success of the management of post-conflict situations. The changing nature of armed conflicts, wars, civil wars and occupations has resulted in a more sizeable population of CBOW; integration of these into post-conflict settlements has proved problematic both for the individual and at societal level.

Immediate impact of the project will be generated by the engagement - through the workshops and skills training - of a variety of practitioners (NGOs) and representatives of charities (involved with victims of war, CBOW, victims of gender-based violence (GBV)). Interactions between academia and practitioners will be mutually beneficial and the regular participation of representatives of interested parties will not only serve to ground the workshops and generate fully interdisciplinary dialogue, but it will feed back into the debates on best practice of dealing with the far-reaching effects of their biological origins on CBOW, e.g. stigmatisation, trauma, legal implications, ethical considerations.

In the medium to long term, cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary dialogue and research will benefit a range of non-academic audiences, such as public sector agencies, policy makers, charities, NGOs working with CBOW in a variety of roles and settings. These benefits will outlive the funding period for this project and will lead to sustainable partnerships across disciplines, between academic and non-academic collaborators and across non-academic partners engaged in different geographical regions. As most of the communications beyond the conferences and workshops will be in virtual form, e.g. through the interactive website, collaboration can be maintained beyond the lifetime of the AHRC-funded project.

Non-academic beneficiaries include:

NGOs: Through involvement in the research, for example in the workshops and conferences, relationships beyond the lifetime of the project will be forged which will allow NGOs (e.g. DDRR groups) to benefit from the findings of the studies which will then feed back into the implementation of best practice on the ground.

Charities: Research outcomes will inform work of charities and other international organisations (e.g. UN, UNICEF) with respect to the placement of CBOW in discourses surrounding International Law, Human Rights, Humanitarian Affairs, Peace and Security and International Development.

Representatives from UK and other interest groups and charities are at the forefront of debates including with policy makers, governmental and sub-governmental agencies operating in this field. In order to maximise impact, these links will be exploited through widespread publication of the research and its outcomes through these groups. Furthermore, it is planned to link up the network website as widely as possible with web-based communication channels operating through these interest groups and agencies.

The aim of the network is to set an interdisciplinary, international and sustainable research agenda that survives the period of funding for the proposed network, involving long-term collaborative efforts among the network members. In the long-term, the outputs of this future research will be highly relevant to policy making.


10 25 50

Description Significant data relating to children of peacekeepers have been collected. First analysis indicates higher resilience levels than expected, and more detailed analysis will follow.
Exploitation Route Findings are currently informing several further studies on CBOW in Europe and Africa. Exchange of improved methodological understanding and development of new instruments are being utilised by several research groups linked through the network. Furthermore, insights from the network are being communicated to the FCO initiative on the prevention of gender-based violence in conflict, and exchange of data with UNICEF and UNSRSG Bangura and Zerrougui is being discussed.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Findings currently feed into a project (Marie Curie IIF) aimed at the drafting for guidelines for the child-sensitive post-conflict reconstruction in Africa, with particular emphasis on consideration of the situation of Children Born of War.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description Make History Work
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Description Children Born of War: Resilience beyond programmes
Amount € 200,000 (EUR)
Funding ID IIF-2999934 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 10/2012 
End 09/2015
Description Naming Practices for children of LRA rebels in Northern Uganda
Amount £1,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2013 
End 08/2013
Description University of Birmingham Undergraduate Research Scholarship
Amount £1,500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2012 
End 08/2012