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Creating Young Martyrs


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"What could possibly lead young people, in their teens or even younger, to knowingly take their own lives in order to kill others? LoCicero and Sinclair provide thoughtful, original, and provocative answers to this question. Unlike other recent discussions of the motives that drive terrorist violence, the authors take a developmental and cultural perspective, focusing on the evolving mind of the young person who lives in a world in which his or her people are dominated by powerful others and basic human rights and opportunities are scarce. Based on the best modern and classic scholarship and their own in-depth interviews with young and older persons in war-torn regions, they provide a powerful analysis that is sure to add to our understanding of one of the most vexing problems facing today's world." -- Tom Pyszczynski, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs "The importance of this book, based on research in Sri Lanka, lies in its imaginative construction of the real choices faced by children recruited for war. Without minimizing the horror and terror of warfare, it portrays a complex process of decision making that often involves the weighing of personal risk against the pull of other cultural and social forces. The result is a study of child soldiers that avoids the cliche-ridden commentary that informs most studies of this subject and lets us see children as real social actors in times of conflict." -- David M. Rosen, J.D., Ph.D, Professor of Anthropology and Law, Fairleigh Dickinson University "The war on terror can never be won with guns, but rather by understanding the forces that drive an individual to become a terrorist and then constructively addressing those forces. This book makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of why children are driven to terrorism. The insights it offers may allow us to formulate policies that deter children at risk from engaging in terrorism." -- Naresh Gunaratnam, Clinical Scholar, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan "This very readable book lucidly explores the life events through which children become soldiers in terrorist organizations and potential martyrs for their causes. The authors present well-established social and developmental theories from every-day life and use them to interpret these events. By going beyond the realm of individual pathology and considering development in a social environment, they shed light on a horrific phenomenon. The study of terrorism greatly needs such examples of using the psychology learned from our ordinary lives." -- Arthur J. Kendall Ph.D., President, Social Research Consultants, University Park, Maryland

Table of Contents

Chapter One Endangered Children Life in War-Affected Areas On the Ground Past Checkpoints, Into Town Across the Globe Knowledge, Power, Action Social Science of Youthful Terrorists Chapter Two 2007 Madrid: I Declare this Conference Open. Interdisciplinary Analyses of Aggression and Terrorism Update on the Social Science of Aggression and Terrorism The Questions What is Terrorism? Defining Terrorism Defining a Terrorist Prototypes of Terrorists Social Scientists Describing Child Terrorists In the Meantime: Proposal for a Consensus Model Terrorism and Altruism Distinguishing Legitimate Militaries from Terrorist Groups What About Legitimate Grievances? Could Terrorist Acts Ever be Performed by Normal People? What about Demographics and Motivation? What about the Demographics of Child Terrorists? Comparing Child Terrorists with Child Soldiers What about Distribution of Wealth and Resources? A Question that did not come up: Biological Determinism for Aggression Chapter Three Twenty-First Century Terrorism and the Development of Youthful Terrorists Child Soldier, Child Terrorist Cognitive Development and Youth in War-Affected Areas Group-Defined Identity Deciding to Engage in a Terrorist Act: The Youthful Brain The Ecology of Development The Propensity to Engage in Terrorist Acts The Production-Line Analogy Preventing the Recruitment of Youth as Martyrs Chapter Four When the Last Tamil Has Died When will the war end? Never. What will it be like when the war ends? The Irony of a Common Theme Talking About It Freedom to Travel The Privilege of an Education How old should someone be before joining a fighting force? Growing up in War-affected Areas Ethnic Conflict: An Informed Account of a Minority Childs Experience From the Childs Point of View: Very Young Children in War-Affected Areas Middle Childhood Older Children: Thirteen and Beyond Truth and Lies Things You Know; Things You Dont Know It all Looks Clear Now Credible? Chapter Five Victims of 21st Century War: Are We all in This Together? Costs of War: Young Men and Women Military Service vs. Rebel Militia Parents of Youthful Terrorists Who have Died in Attacks Chain of Events Creating Martyrs: What Americans Need to Know Common American Theories About Youthful Terrorists Radical Differences in Experience Underscoring the Need for Better Knowledge of the World Ecological Psychology A Very Good Cause A Very Good Cause: What Do They Know and How do They Know It? Trust and Distrust in the US How Distrust of News Contributes to Recruitment of Children in War-Affected Areas Stop Providing Weapons. Resources Dont Discount Our Generation Shared Future: Human Rights, Terrorism, and Youth Around the World Nuclear Taboo Very Brief Historical Overview Contemporary Nuclear Threat Nuclear Threat Some Evidence and Scenarios for Possible Nuclear Attack on the United States Could A Terrorist Organization Obtain a Nuclear Weapon? Could a Nuclear Weapon be Transported into the US? Chapter Six The Fisherman On a Global Scale: The Fishermans Potential Network Good guys and bad guys: The bad guys keep on coming. Managing the Difficult View Hearts and Minds? Winning Hearts and Minds: A Modest Proposal American Compassion and Mercy Knowing Hearts and Minds Why try to understand those who would perpetrate violence on innocent people? Northern Ireland Challenging misperceptions: Everyday heroism About the Authors Series Afterword

About the Author

Alice LoCicero is Past President and Co-Founder of the Society of Terrorism Research, as well as Chair of Social Sciences at Endicott College. She is a certified Clinical Psychologist, and has been a faculty member at the Center for Multicultural Training and Boston Medical Center, as well as at Suffolk University. In earlier roles, LoCicero served as Senior Psychologist working with families at Children's Hospital, Boston, and as Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School. A member of the Massachusetts Behaviorial Health Disaster Responders, she provides mental health services to family members of victims of terrorism and other manmade and natural disasters. She traveled to Sri Lanka in May and June of 2007 to learn about conditions that make terrorism an appealing idea to some youths.Samuel J. Sinclair is Co-Founder and President of the Society for Terrorism Research ( He is currently a Fellow in Psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He is also Founder and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the peer-refereed journal Terrorism Research, and developed as well as collaborated with an international Editorial Board comprised of some 80 experts from 14 countries on five continents. Sinclair is also the developer of the Terrorism Catastrophizing Scale, a new assessment tool measuring anticipatory fears about terrorism. He is past recipient of the Association for Threat Assessment Professionals' Chris Hatcher Memorial Scholarship Award.


"This is a relatively short book composed of six chapters. The first chapter consists of a chatty travelogue describing one author's visit to Sri Lanka. The second begins with the description of a conference held in 2007 in Madrid and then uses it as a backdrop for consideration of the problems of defining 'terrorism' and 'terrorist,' as well as other major conceptual problems faced by scholars studying terrorism. The book relies primarily on the impressions gathered on the visit to Sri Lanka, secondary scholarly sources, literary works, and conference proceedings. The third chapter tries to apply the literature on cognitive development. The fourth focuses on the hopelessness of ending the 'war' these children are facing--some child interview material is used anecdotally. The fifth considers the problem that most victims of terrorist attacks are civilians." - Choice

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