Theoretical Framework

There are theories that are commonly used in child soldier research. These theories might help us to understand some of the key issues surrounding child soldiers, such as (1) Why recruit children? (2) Why forced recruitment? (3) Why do children volunteer? (4)What makes children stay in the rebellion group?

It is important to note, that majority of the theories that do talk about the child soldiers are undertaking economic perspectives, and the number of theories that are based on cultural or social perspectives are very limited.

General Framework/Agency Theory


The Majority of the scholars who write about child soldiers refer to the agency (or principal agent model) theory.

Agency theory has been used widely by scholars in sociology, accounting, economics, finance, marketing, political science, and organizational behavior 1. The agency theory provides a basic framework for examining the relationship between the employer/employee; principal/agent;  or, in our case, rebellion leader/child. Central to the theory are the concepts of contract (agreement) between the principal and an agent; incentives; and conflict resolution.

In a classical agency theory, the principal is presented as an individual who is trying to minimize costs for organization, while getting the most benefits from the agent by offering the most optimal contract. While, an agent is seen as the rational individual who is seeking to agree on the best contract among all the options available.

Even though, in its classical version, the agency theory does not perfectly fit to describe the relationship between the rebellion leader and a child, it provides a general framework for discussing all of the four questions described earlier. The majority of the theories presented below are based on the agency theory. 

Why recruit children?

Why forced recruitment?

Why children do volunteer?

What makes children stay in the rebellion groups? 


1 Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Agency theory: An assessment and review. Academy of Management.the Academy of Management Review, 14(1), 57-57


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