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Life after armed group involvement in Nepal: a clinical ethnography of psychological well-being of former 'child soldiers' over time
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-06, 09:56 authored by Emilie Medeiros, Prabin Shrestha, Himal Gaire, David OrrDavid Orr
Little is known about the longitudinal effects of early age involvement of young people in armed groups and their well-being as they return to strongly affected, politicised communities. Current research and policy are often driven by the assumption of a causal relationship between participation in this war experience and psychological damage. This article explores the role of young people’s armed group experience during the Nepal People’s War, compared with post-conflict stressors, in shaping intra-psychic impact and distress, and which processes enable well-being and resilient functioning. Findings are reported from an 18-month clinical ethnography of a cohort of 17 Nepalese young subjects, where participant-observation methods were used to explore their daily lives after exiting the armed group and follow-up research conducted six years later. The findings highlighted limited evidence for on-going intra-psychic impact and distress related directly to their armed group experience; when such distress occurred, it appeared to be generated more by the structural violence of their environments. The key constituents determining their well-being included: a sense of closeness through emotional connectedness with their family, ideological proximity with the values of the armed group, closeness in their bond with the community, and the social-emotional-economic capital available to them to navigate the harsh structural constraints of post-conflict life. These data further challenge the prevailing assumption that this war experience inevitably leads to psychological damage, and the article argues that structural violence often plays a predominant role in cases where psychological distress does arise.
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