Resilience in the Context of War: A Critical Analysis of Contemporary Conceptions and Interventions to Promote Resilience Among War-Affected Children and Their Surroundings

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The concept “resilience” is gradually permeating policy, research, and practice initiatives for children living in (post-) conflict areas. Whereas resilience theory increasingly acknowledges the systemic nature of the concept, the bulk of studies and interventions for war-affected children continues to adopt a merely individualistic approach. This paper reviews contemporary individualistic conceptions and applications of resilience in the context of children and armed conflict, and discusses its potential implications against the backdrop of the inherently interrelated notions of self-determination, self-responsibility, and self-help. Scholars, practitioners, and policymakers are invited to reflect critically about the political dimension attached to such approaches and about the importance of also addressing macrostructural factors that are strongly interconnected with aspects of resilience on other levels. In response to this critical analysis, a relational approach to the resilience of war-affected children is advanced. This approach comprises individual, collective, institutional, and political spheres of influence and emphasizes the importance of the relational dynamics that facilitate transaction within and across these spheres.

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