Alternative Ways of Capturing the Legacies of Traumatic Events: A Literature Review of Agency of Children Living in Countries Affected by Political Violence and Armed Conflicts

Trauma Violence Abuse. 2022 Apr;23(2):555-566. doi: 10.1177/1524838020961878. Epub 2020 Oct 1.


Background: It has been revealed that the construct of agency plays a crucial role in contributing to children's positive functioning and well-being despite their traumatic contexts. Yet there is little agreement within the literature about the definition of agency, how agency is displayed by children, or how it should be investigated.

Aims: This study provides a synthetic overview of studies that have analyzed the agency of children living in contexts affected by political violence and armed conflict. In the process, it highlights major theoretical breakthroughs and findings in this area of research. The aim was to review research investigating the different ways in which children's agency manifests itself within their everyday lives, as well as possible policy implications.

Method: We identified published peer-reviewed studies relating to children's agency in conflict-affected environments through a narrative literature review. An ecological framework was used to organize studies according to the different settings (personal, familial, cultural, or contextual) within which the children's agency was displayed.

Results: Of 682 studies identified from online searches of the literature and the three additional sources gathered through bibliography mining, 63 qualified for full review, with 15 studies included in the final synthesis. Overall, the literature focused mostly on the ways in which children's ability to mobilize resources emerged in order to cope with their challenging contexts.

Conclusion: Scholars advocated for community-oriented and child-centered programs that are aimed not only at promoting recovery from symptoms but also at fostering advocacy and a sense of agency in children.

Keywords: agency; armed conflict; children; military violence; political violence; well-being.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Armed Conflicts*
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Violence*