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Former Child Soldiers: Pariahs or Productive Citizens? Why Our Hype Can Harm
October 29, 2007
Images of African teens and pre-teens armed with AK-47s have been splashed across newspapers and television screens for so long that child soldiers have practically become pop culture icons, arousing our pity and fear. But myths about child soldiers—how and why they are recruited and their prospects for a normal, productive life once they escape their captors or the conflict ends—are undermining efforts to stop the practice and help former child soldiers to rejoin civilian life. Chris Blattman, a post-doctoral fellow at CGD, is part of a team that has surveyed hundreds of former child soldiers in northern Uganda. Among their surprising findings: former child soldiers are usually psychologically resilient, peaceful, and productive citizens when they return home, and are eager to make up for lost schooling.