BACKGROUND: In the mainstream literature, children exposed to political violence and armed conflicts are conventionally viewed as a vulnerable group, but we believe their coping abilities, survival skills, and agency are overlooked and underestimated. In this study, we challenged this traditional view by conceptualising agency as children's capacity to act and contribute to their own security, wellbeing, and development, and assessed its contribution in helping them adapt to and cope with challenging and traumatic living conditions. METHODS: We used a socioecological approach to observe and assess qualitatively children's agency. Participants were recruited by local associations in rural areas, urban areas, and refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They were chosen by directors and counsellors of education centres through purposive convenience sampling. The inclusion criterion was no diagnosis of physical or psychological disease. All participants and families provided verbal consent before the activities. Each child was asked to draw and describe a map representing all significant places-safe and unsafe-within their neighbourhoods. A subgroup of children was asked to guide the research team within their neighbourhoods using a walkalong technique. All children's narratives were audiotaped, transcribed, and translated by two local bilingual researchers (EG and AJ). Thematic content analysis was applied to written and drawn materials using Atlas.Ti version 8. FINDINGS: Data were collected between April and November, 2018. 75 children aged 7-13 years (mean 10·27 [SD 1·38] years, 68% girls, 32% boys, 23% residing in the Gaza Strip and 58% in the West Bank) drew maps. 30 children (17 girls and 13 boys) guided research team members around neighbourhoods. Thematic content analysis revealed six main domains representing children's everyday strategies and practices of agency: 1) actively employing social resource; 2) challenging movement restrictions; 3) receiving an education; 4) personal strategies; 5) reclaiming play spaces; and 6) meaning-making processes and political engagement (appendix). Agency emerged as strictly intersected by experience, societal expectations, gender, geography, and social maturity. INTERPRETATION: The domains revealed in this study illustrate the crucial interconnection between children's practices of agency and the multiple ecologies of their everyday life implied in promoting (or suppressing) their ability to mobilise resources to improve their own wellbeing. Children's agency has emerged as a multidimensional construct within the different socioecological levels and thus showing the importance of considering individual family, community, and societal levels when examining life in the context of war. Our findings challenge the picture of Palestinian children as helpless victims, and instead show them to be active agents who mobilise resources within themselves and their social, physical, and political experiences, despite living with violence. The children we assessed were highly competent and active agents who drew on personal, social, and external resources to enhance their wellbeing and life satisfaction and to cope with adversity. Our findings illustrate the importance of agency for children's wellbeing within challenging and traumatic living conditions and how structures, contexts, and relationships can expand or constrain the child's choices and hence, their agency.None.

Cavazzoni, F., Ghafri, E., Obaid, H., Veronese, G., Fiorini, A., Jaradah, A. (2022). The protective role of children's agency: towards critical understanding of agency amongst children living in the context of armed conflict and political violence. THE LANCET, 399(S1) [10.1016/S0140-6736(22)01136-9].

The protective role of children's agency: towards critical understanding of agency amongst children living in the context of armed conflict and political violence

Cavazzoni, Federica;Obaid, Hania;Veronese, Guido;
2022

Abstract

BACKGROUND: In the mainstream literature, children exposed to political violence and armed conflicts are conventionally viewed as a vulnerable group, but we believe their coping abilities, survival skills, and agency are overlooked and underestimated. In this study, we challenged this traditional view by conceptualising agency as children's capacity to act and contribute to their own security, wellbeing, and development, and assessed its contribution in helping them adapt to and cope with challenging and traumatic living conditions. METHODS: We used a socioecological approach to observe and assess qualitatively children's agency. Participants were recruited by local associations in rural areas, urban areas, and refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. They were chosen by directors and counsellors of education centres through purposive convenience sampling. The inclusion criterion was no diagnosis of physical or psychological disease. All participants and families provided verbal consent before the activities. Each child was asked to draw and describe a map representing all significant places-safe and unsafe-within their neighbourhoods. A subgroup of children was asked to guide the research team within their neighbourhoods using a walkalong technique. All children's narratives were audiotaped, transcribed, and translated by two local bilingual researchers (EG and AJ). Thematic content analysis was applied to written and drawn materials using Atlas.Ti version 8. FINDINGS: Data were collected between April and November, 2018. 75 children aged 7-13 years (mean 10·27 [SD 1·38] years, 68% girls, 32% boys, 23% residing in the Gaza Strip and 58% in the West Bank) drew maps. 30 children (17 girls and 13 boys) guided research team members around neighbourhoods. Thematic content analysis revealed six main domains representing children's everyday strategies and practices of agency: 1) actively employing social resource; 2) challenging movement restrictions; 3) receiving an education; 4) personal strategies; 5) reclaiming play spaces; and 6) meaning-making processes and political engagement (appendix). Agency emerged as strictly intersected by experience, societal expectations, gender, geography, and social maturity. INTERPRETATION: The domains revealed in this study illustrate the crucial interconnection between children's practices of agency and the multiple ecologies of their everyday life implied in promoting (or suppressing) their ability to mobilise resources to improve their own wellbeing. Children's agency has emerged as a multidimensional construct within the different socioecological levels and thus showing the importance of considering individual family, community, and societal levels when examining life in the context of war. Our findings challenge the picture of Palestinian children as helpless victims, and instead show them to be active agents who mobilise resources within themselves and their social, physical, and political experiences, despite living with violence. The children we assessed were highly competent and active agents who drew on personal, social, and external resources to enhance their wellbeing and life satisfaction and to cope with adversity. Our findings illustrate the importance of agency for children's wellbeing within challenging and traumatic living conditions and how structures, contexts, and relationships can expand or constrain the child's choices and hence, their agency.None.
Abstract in rivista
agency; children; war; Palestine;
English
Cavazzoni, F., Ghafri, E., Obaid, H., Veronese, G., Fiorini, A., Jaradah, A. (2022). The protective role of children's agency: towards critical understanding of agency amongst children living in the context of armed conflict and political violence. THE LANCET, 399(S1) [10.1016/S0140-6736(22)01136-9].
Cavazzoni, F; Ghafri, E; Obaid, H; Veronese, G; Fiorini, A; Jaradah, A
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10281/386848
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