Children drawing their own conclusions: Trans-generational transmission of experiences of war and peace

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


As a society coming out of a protracted intra-state political conflict, Northern Ireland is still dealing with issues related to its ―troubled‖ past. However, neither the mechanism by which trans-generational transmission of knowledge and memories about violent events occurs, nor how children perceive the notion of peace while still living in a divided society, has been systematically examined. This study explores how children born after the peace agreement understand their own lives and those of their predecessors, and to what extent parental experiences of the conflict influence children‘s perceptions.
In total, 179 children aged 10-11 years old drew two pictures, one about living in Northern Ireland now and another one about living in Northern Ireland before they were born. The children were then asked to briefly explain their drawings. 73 parents of these children completed a questionnaire about their conflict related experience, their opinions and attitudes, and their communication with their children. While the majority of children‘s drawings (92%) depicted elements of peace and hope, especially regarding the present (88%), 39% also portrayed violence, especially regarding the past (36%). Children‘s depictions varied depending on their gender, age and type of school they attended. Trans-generational transmission of personal memories was found to be related to much more than just parental experience. Children who depicted violence in the pictures on the past were somewhat more likely to have parents who had talked to them about their violent experiences. Implications for history teaching were also drawn.
Date of AwardNov 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorKarola Dillenburger (Supervisor)

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