- Children's conceptions of terrorists: Exploratory studies
- Peace and Conflict : Journal of Peace Psychology
- Volume | Issue number
- 14 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Psychology Research Institute (PsyRes)
Although literature dealing with the psychological consequences of terrorist attacks and terrorism is abundant, very little information is available about the way children understand and perceive terrorists and terrorism. A series of photographs showing clay puppets of terrorists made by 11-year-old children inspired the two studies reported in this article. The studies had as their purpose to offer initial insights into the way children aged 7 through 11 understand and perceive terrorists. As a theoretical framework, research on the understanding of enemy and enemy images was adopted.
The methods employed involved questionnaires and drawings, free associations, and
word-recognition tasks. The findings suggest that children aged 7 have no clear understanding of a terrorist. By the age of 9, children’s conceptions show that terrorists
are a special instance of an enemy, characterized by concrete actions rather than the
undefined presence of an enemy. Across age, terrorists become better defined, more
negatively evaluated, and more frightening.
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