Child and Recruiter

How Children Get Involved in the Armed Forces

Children, in most cases are recruited by force, or some join the military groups voluntarily due to several reasons. First, according to Wessels1 children that are experiencing problems in their families, or children who are left without parental support-orphans are more likely to volunteer with the intention of accessing food, security, and health care. Second common argument is that children are more willing to join forces if they have poor outside options, such as employment or educational opportunities 2, 3Third, children become soldiers, because they are easily manipulated by the rebellion groups. Fourth, in case of Sri Lanka, it was found that the mass media, public system, and the literature were also encouraging children to become fighters4. Furthermore, from the same case study, it was revealed that children volunteered because of the following reasons: hatred of enemy, virtue of being a freedom fighter, experience of a family member being killed by the enemy. And lastly, in case of girls, as noted by Wessles1, and  Keairns5, the decision was made with the intention to escape forced marriages. 

Why do Armed Forces Recruit Children?

According to Beber & Blattman3, “the young are more malleable, adaptable, and obedient”. This argument is also widely supported by many scholars, including the leaders of the rebellion groups. As such, a Congolese rebel leader interviewed by The Economist distinguished the same three reasons why children were good soldiers: “they obey orders; they are not concern getting back to their family; and they don’t know fear”6. Also, in the most recent study by Tynes7, it is stated that child soldiers are used by forces as ‘tactical innovations’ with the aim to embarrass, and thus, to demolish  the opposite group.

In the other sections, we will explore more deeply the causes of child soldiering and the impacts on children, and the society. Also we will refer to some of the theories that would help us to understand and explain the following phenomena: What are the rationales to recruit child soldiers? Why forced recruitment? Why children volunteer to join the rebellion groups? What makes children stay in the rebellion group?  

Go to:

Past and Present



Theoretical Framework


1 Wessells, M. (2005). Child soldiers, peace education, and postconflict reconstruction for peace. Theory into Practice, 44(4), 363-369

2 Massey, Ch. M. (2000). Child soldiers: theory and reality of their existence: the question of international protection available to them in contemporary times. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

3 Beber, B.& Blattman, Ch. (2010). The Logic of Child Soldiering and Coercion. Unpublished working paper, Yale University

de Silva, H., Hobbs, C. & Hanks, H. (2001). Conscription of children in armed conflict—a form of child abuse: a study of 19 former child soldiers. Child Abuse Review 10, 125–134

5 Keairns, Y. (2002). The voices of girl child soldiers: Summary. New York: Quaker United Nations Office.

6 Eisentrager, S. (2012). Exploring the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers. Essay. Retrieved from

7 Tynes, R. M. (2011). Child soldiers, armed conflicts, and tactical innovations. State University of New York at Albany. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 344.


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