How Children Understand War and Peace: A Call for International Peace Education

By Amiram Raviv; Louis Oppenheimer et al. | Go to book overview

7
CHILDREN, PEACE, AND WAR
IN NORTHERN IRELAND

Frances McLernon and Ed Cairns, University of Ulster

THE MEDIA IMAGE OF NORTHERN IRELAND is that of a war-torn society constantly plagued by gunmen and rioting youths. While this is not an entirely accurate picture, it is true that Northern ireland has suffered some twenty-eight years of continuous political violence. in this chapter our main aim is to review research in Northern Ireland which has explored the possibility that emerging from an ongoing political conflict influences children's and young people's ideas about peace and war. Undoubtedly children's ideas on these subjects are in part a reflection of their intellectual ability or the level of cognitive development they have reached. The research reviewed in this chapter provides some insight into the possibility that, in addition to these factors, children's ideas about peace and war can be altered by their exposure to events in the society in which they live.

Following an overview of some tangential evidence on this topic which examines children's attitudes toward peace and war in Northern ireland and in other war-ridden societies, two recent studies will be reported in detail. The first of these examines adolescents' ideas about peace and war before and after the 1994 cease-fire in Northern Ireland. The second study examines changes over time in a group of elementary school children during the beginning of the current peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. We will begin, however, by providing a brief background on the history and politics of the conflict in Northern Ireland in order to provide a context for the research which follows.

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