The long-lasting effect of armed conflicts on family bereavement

SocArxiv papers
27 pages.
submitted: 22 December 2023 / last edited: 24 December 2023 (2023), unpublished
Open Access


Armed conflicts increase the mortality of combatants and civilians and each of these deaths implies the loss of a close relative for the surviving population. These experiences of loss have profound and durable impacts on the life of bereaved relatives. For instance, the violent death of a parent is likely to be traumatic and have adverse lingering effects on a child’s well-being. In the context of protracted conflicts, the prevalence of bereavement can be magnified as individuals accumulate the loss of multiple family members over the course of their life. This study focuses on the population-level loss of parents and offspring due to armed conflict in the four populations most intensely affected by conflict in recent years. We show that populations have experienced considerable levels of conflict-derived bereavement since 1989. For example, in 2023, one out of every 20 Syrians had ever lost an offspring to conflict and one in every 25 has ever lost a parent. That same year, one in 65 Palestinians had ever lost an offspring to conflict violence and one in 100 had ever lost a parent. We discuss the potential implications of this lingering bereavement for population health, historical memory, and political reconciliation.

Keywords: Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, kinship, mortality, war
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.