Secession, legitimacy and the use of child soldiers

Trace Lasley, Clayton Thyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Child soldiers remain a stark reminder of the suffering caused by civil wars. This paper explores the long-term calculations that rebel leaders employ when deciding whether or not to use child soldiers. A norm against the use of child soldiers has been strongly stated by the international community. Given their need to attract international support to achieve their goal of state recognition, we argue that separatist rebellions are unlikely to use child soldiers because they are constrained by these norms. We test our expectation on a newly collected dataset of child soldier use from 1998 to 2008. Our analyses find considerable support that separatists are more likely to follow accepted norms and refrain from using underage troops. Consistent with previous work, we also find that child soldier use increases as the duration of the war increases, when there is a vulnerable supply of internally displaced people, as youth unemployment increases, and when rebel groups rely on illicit funds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-308
Number of pages20
JournalConflict Management and Peace Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 15 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014.


  • Child soldiers
  • civil war
  • norms
  • rebel behavior
  • secession

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations


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