Children and Adolescents' Conceptions of Peace, War, and Strategies to Attain Peace: A Dutch Case Study

  • Hakvoort I
  • Oppenheimer L
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This article examines age-related changes in the conceptions children and adolescents hold about peace, war, and strategies to attain peace. These were expected to change from concrete, materially related to abstract, norm-related conceptions. The conceptions were assessed by means of a semi-structured questionnaire presented to 101 Dutch children between 8 and 16 years of age and divided into five age groups (mean ages 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16 years). Each age group consisted of approximately equal numbers of boys and girls to ascertain any gender differences. Developmental levels for children's understanding of the reciprocal nature of interpersonal relationships (assessed by means of role or perspective-taking tasks) were presumed to relate to their conceptions of peace and strategies to attain peace, in particular. In addition to a development from concrete, materially related conceptions to abstract, norm-related conceptions, the findings suggest a more complex developmental course. While 8 to 12-year-olds used concrete, materially related characteristics for peace, war, and strategies to attain peace, 14 to 16-year-olds mentioned abstract, norm-related characteristics only when strategies to attain peace from an everyday perspective were considered. As noted by Selman, most 12-year-old children understood the mutual or reciprocal nature of interpersonal relationships. The latter understanding was primarily associated with the more abstract, norm-related level of reasoning involving ideas about human attitudes and universal rights.

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  • Ilse Hakvoort

  • Louise Oppenheimer

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