Combatants’ Children: Conflict and Resilience in Northern Ireland

Bill Rolston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article argues that international humanitarian and human rights law follow a hegemonic Western social construction which, in practice, sees childhood as precious, vulnerable, and in need of adult protection. Thus, the Convention on the Rights of the Child is highly explicit about protecting children from the ravages of modern war, whether as victims or as child soldiers. The agency of such children, however, is not easily accommodated within this paradigm. Children who are exposed to situations such as violence and war, far removed from the ideal of childhood, are seen to be traumatized by their experiences. This article explores and problematizes that view through the words of twenty people in Northern Ireland whose parents were combatants in illegal military organizations. It concludes that coping mechanismsdepend in part on the sociopolitical context, which makes itpossible for people—including children—to believe that it ispossible to cope.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-82
JournalInterdisciplinary Journal of Human Rights Law
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - May 2012


  • Children
  • conflict
  • resilience
  • combatants
  • Northern Ireland


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