Child soldiers continue to be regular participants in modern conflicts in many different parts of the world. This dissertation addresses several interrelated questions about child soldiering employing large-N statistical analyses, process-tracing, and in-depth interviews. First, it asks how foreign state support and the characteristics of these donors influence rebels' recruitment of child soldiers. An important finding is that rebels supported by democratic states are less likely to employ child soldiers. It then investigates the factors and conditions that lead some groups to diversify their demographics in the types of recruits and others to not. Specifically, it considers why a rebel group would recruit children, but refrain from recruiting women. It examines theoretical arguments that contend group ideology, desires for patriarchal preservation, societal gender inequalities, and the location/type of rebellion (rural vs. urban) can each significantly contribute to groups' recruitment behavior. Third, it considers a question that speaks directly to the first two questions. What factors lead to the initial recruitment of children and how conflict conditions may impact the dynamics of rebel recruitment over time? An in-depth analysis of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) and the employment of a unique dataset on deceased Kurdish militants allows for an exploration of the temporal variation in the group's recruitment patterns over four decades. It illustrates that inter-rebel rivalries, conflict intensity, and the evolution of human rights norms shape rebels' recruitment behavior. The final section reorients the focus of the dissertation from rebel child soldiering to government child soldiering. It surveys the conditions under which the United States holds foreign governments accountable for their child soldiering practices through the restriction of certain forms of security assistance. In depth analyses of four norm-violating states and interviews with policy experts show that the strategic importance of a state and the systemic nature of child recruitment are strong predictors of when security assistance waivers will be granted. Together, this dissertation advances scholarly understanding of the causes, dynamics, and implications of child soldiering.


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Graduation Date





Tezcur, Gunes Murat


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences


Politics, Security, and International Affairs

Degree Program

Security Studies









Release Date

August 2019

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)