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Child Soldiers

Child Soldiers

From Violence to Protection

Michael Wessells

ISBN 9780674032552

Publication date: 03/31/2009

Compelling and humane, this book reveals the lives of the 300,000 child soldiers around the world, challenging stereotypes of them as predators or a lost generation. Kidnapped or lured by the promise of food, protection, revenge, or a better life, children serve not only as combatants but as porters, spies, human land mine detectors, and sexual slaves. Nearly one-third are girls, and Michael Wessells movingly reveals the particular dangers they face from pregnancy, childbirth complications, and the rejection they and their babies encounter in their local contexts.

Based mainly on participatory research and interviews with hundreds of former child soldiers worldwide, Wessells allows these ex-soldiers to speak for themselves and reveal the enormous complexity of their experiences and situations. The author argues that despite the social, moral, and psychological wounds of war, a surprising number of former child soldiers enter civilian life, and he describes the healing, livelihood, education, reconciliation, family integration, protection, and cultural supports that make it possible. A passionate call for action, Child Soldiers pushes readers to go beyond the horror stories to develop local and global strategies to stop this theft of childhood.


  • This is a crucial book. Human rights activists, physicians, and citizens around the world recognize the need to find effective interventions for child soldiers, but up to now we have lacked systematic information about them. Wessells discusses all of the major concerns: how boys and girls are recruited or enticed into guerrilla groups; how they are affected by violence, deprivation, and abuse; the role of culture and healing; and the actions we must take to save youngsters from guerrilla groups and send them home. Child Soldiers will be a cornerstone for research--and for action.

    —Neil Boothby, Director, Program on Forced Migration and Health, Columbia University


  • Michael Wessells is an experienced child protection practitioner with Christian Children's Fund and Professor at Columbia University and Randolph-Macon College.

Book Details

  • 302 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press