Wednesday 4 April 2018 8.30 - 10.30ZA-1 - ORA01 : Children Born of War in Different Historical and Geopolitical Settings in the 20th Century. Current Research Results, Theoretical and Methodological Challenges
Mc Mordie Hall School of Music
German occupation children (GOC) are children born of war (CBOW): fathered by an occupation or enemy soldier and born to a local (German) woman at the end of and during the years following World War II. GOC are a hidden population: their population size cannot be precisely determined, estimations range ... (Show more)
German occupation children (GOC) are children born of war (CBOW): fathered by an occupation or enemy soldier and born to a local (German) woman at the end of and during the years following World War II. GOC are a hidden population: their population size cannot be precisely determined, estimations range from 200,000 to 400,000; they are difficult to be accessed by researchers; their reality is rarely captured by standard instruments. GOC as a group had long been rather invisible in public discourse and many even grew up thinking there are no others sharing a similar life story.
The first psychological study on consequences of growing up as a GOC in post-World-War II Germany conducted in 2013 offered a chance for GOC to have a public voice and to learn about the life of others with a mutual background. In a first step, participants were asked to complete a questionnaire on core aspects when researching psychosocial consequences. It consisted of standardized instruments (e.g. mental distress, adult attachment, child maltreatment) as well as self-developed parts (e.g. experiences of stigmatization, questions of identity as GOC and specific experiences during childhood and adolescence). The results show that GOC share specific living conditions, like growing up without their fathers, mothers in financial hardship, frequently changing primary attachment figures, and encounters of stigmatization on institutional, public and family levels. These experiences rendered them prone to be victims of child maltreatment and especial burdening traumatic experiences (sexual abuse, rape) which are associated with the development of mental disorders. In close adult relationships GOC are less comfortable to be close to or to rely on others. Current prevalence rates for posttraumatic stress disorder, depression and somatization are significantly higher compared to the German general population of same age. For the participants working on the questionnaire served as a chance to reflect upon their life as part of the research process, but also as a natural task of maturing during the life course.
Since questionnaires offer limited space to recollect all aspects of a life story, in a second step subsequent narrative interviews were conducted with several participants from the GOC and a following study on Austrian occupation children to generate a conclusive picture of the specific living conditions and experiences of GOC. Thematically they focus on identity development and long-term effects of growing up as a child born of rape.
The third step of our study emerged from communication and observations of GOC during the research process: How do participants experience the research process during and after participation? Did participation have an impact on their current life? Does participation have an impact on how they view their life story? This approach used a short questionnaire on impact of study participation as well as a short telephone interview. Results and method will be presented at the conference.
This is the first psychological study to investigate the impact of life story reflection on the individual living of CBOW and thus serves as a sustainable and innovative approach to research. (Show less)
Michal Korhel : Expulsion, Maltreatment and Carefree Childhood. Life Stories of Czech-German Children in Early Post-WWII Czechoslovakia
During and after the Second World War the nationalists’ struggle in the Bohemian Lands culminated in frequent, openly hostile actions against their opponents. Czech-German families found themselves facing first the Nazi (re-)Germanization policy during the war and subsequently the Czech nationalists’ endeavours to cleanse the nation and country from everything ... (Show more)
During and after the Second World War the nationalists’ struggle in the Bohemian Lands culminated in frequent, openly hostile actions against their opponents. Czech-German families found themselves facing first the Nazi (re-)Germanization policy during the war and subsequently the Czech nationalists’ endeavours to cleanse the nation and country from everything German. Although Czech-German children were protected by state directives as the ‘biological future’ of the Czech nation, official measures were often ignored on a local level and overshadowed by anti-German sentiments among the Czech population.
Based primarily on oral histories with the help of additional archival materials the proposed paper illustrates the variety of experiences of Czech-German children in the post-conflict context. Humiliation, prejudice and frequent abuse in public connected to the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia were in many cases a significant part of their everyday life. However, the German nationality of one of their parents did not necessarily signify being subjected to negative repercussions. There are many testimonies about childhoods without physical or psychological violence. As it is not clear what circumstances lead to which treatment of Czech-German children this paper furthermore endeavours to detect similarities and patterns in the life stories of Czech-German children in order to explore the background of particular experiences. This allows us not just a greater differentiation of living situations of children growing up in ethnically mixed families and how those situations are remembered more than 70 years afterwards, but also to shed light on decisive factors affecting the everyday lives of Czech-German children. (Show less)
Saskia Mitreuter : A Mixed-method Approach to Analysing Identity Development in German Occupation Children Born after WW II
After WW II approx. 400,000 German Occupation Children (GOC) were born through intimate contacts between German women and foreign soldiers. They grew up (in almost all cases) in the absence of their biological fathers, and with limited or no information about them. As an additional burden, such children were born ... (Show more)
After WW II approx. 400,000 German Occupation Children (GOC) were born through intimate contacts between German women and foreign soldiers. They grew up (in almost all cases) in the absence of their biological fathers, and with limited or no information about them. As an additional burden, such children were born out of wedlock and were often considered “children of the enemy”. Consequently, these GOC have reported unresolved issues with identity formation and belonging.
Based on Narrative Identity Theory (McAdams, 2015), the current study investigates identity development in GOC. We apply a mixed-method approach, using both, qualitative data from life-story interviews with 18 GOC and quantitative data from a questionnaire study with 146 GOC. We ask whether there are typical patterns of narrative identity in GOC.
Five distinct self-representations of identities emerged from open text in the questionnaire: Marginalized 22%, Survivalist 10%, Fighter 8%, Victimized 23%, Unaffected 18%, and not assignable 19%. About half of the sample thus perceives itself as being rather passively extradited (55%), whereas 1/5 describes more active strategies (18%). First results from the narrative interviews indicate that the extent of narratives featuring belonging and autonomy is generally small, but self-representations and strategies change and evolve over the life-span.
The results underpin the importance of considering children born of war as a vulnerable group in conflict and post-conflict settings. (Show less)
Sophie Roupetz : Discussing the Attachment Development of Occupation Children Born of Rape after WW II in Germany by using a Mixed-method Approach
Up to 1.9 million German women were raped at the end of WWII by Soviet soldiers; moreover several thousand rapes were perpetrated by the Western Allies. According to estimations about 8000 children were born as a result of sexual violence committed against German women by occupation soldiers (Gebhardt, 2015). The ... (Show more)
Up to 1.9 million German women were raped at the end of WWII by Soviet soldiers; moreover several thousand rapes were perpetrated by the Western Allies. According to estimations about 8000 children were born as a result of sexual violence committed against German women by occupation soldiers (Gebhardt, 2015). The World Health Organization (2000) describes these „Children born of rape” as at risk of being neglected, stigmatised, ostracised or abandoned. Sometimes these children serve as a living reminder of the rape, which is challenging mother-child-attachment and parenting behaviour. Overall results on adult attachment in German occupation children seem to be more troublesome attachment representations in comparison with a representative sample indicating rather negative or conflicting working models of the self. Despite these facts, systematic research into the wellbeing of these children born of rape remained absent.
Adult attachment was examined in Children born of war (CBOW) (N=146) and compared with a representative birth-cohort-matched sample (BCMS) from the German general population (N=786). To expand the knowledge on attachment 10 narrative biographical interviews with children born of rape on adult attachment representations were conducted and qualitative content analysis was applied.
CBOW differ with respect to adult attachment compared to BCMS (less comfortable with closeness/intimacy; lowered ability to depend on others). Attachment experiences in Children born of rape in childhood and their impact on adult attachment will be described via a qualitative approach.
The fate of children born of rape was a societal taboo in Germany for decades. Even though they are a particularly vulnerable group of CBOW with rather adverse experiences of attachment and parenting. The impact of these experiences persists into adulthood. Even decades later they display more insecure attachment in current relationships. Quantitative findings underline the complex and long-term impact of their developmental conditions on attachment and current mental health. Case examples show how CBOW perceive and describe themselves within diverse relations in their child- and adulthood. (Show less)
Lukas Schretter : Coming to Terms with – or Repressing – the Past. Analysing the Narratives of Children of British Soldiers and Austrian Mothers after WW II
Children fathered by Allied soldiers and born to local mothers after World War II –“Besatzungskinder” (Occupation Children) – did not play an important role in collective memory of the Allied occupation period, in both Germany and Austria respectively. Regarded by large parts of the population as children of the enemy, ... (Show more)
Children fathered by Allied soldiers and born to local mothers after World War II –“Besatzungskinder” (Occupation Children) – did not play an important role in collective memory of the Allied occupation period, in both Germany and Austria respectively. Regarded by large parts of the population as children of the enemy, they were often stigmatised and defamed not only because of their fathers’ service in the military, but also because they were born out of wedlock. Only in recent years, the topic “Occupation Children” has evolved from a taboo topic to one being more openly discussed in society. Rising interest has encouraged many of them to share their personal memories in public. In return, their narratives have had an impact on how collective memory of “Occupation Children” has been constructed, shared, and passed on.
On the basis of interviews conducted within the international network “Children Born of War. Past, Present, and Future”, the proposed presentation examines how children of British soldiers and Austrian mothers interpret their experiences and their family histories during the occupation period. Furthermore, the interviews represent how such self-reflection changed over the years following the immediate post-war years. In addition, an analysis of letters, diaries, photographs, and memoirs allows gaining insight how they have dealt with their biological background and when and how – if at all – they began searching for their “roots”.
Against this background, on the basis of biographical sources the proposed presentation furthermore examines the experiences of children that were born out of marriages between British soldiers and Austrian women. After the repeal of the British marriage ban in 1946, many of the relationships between British soldiers and Austrian women led to a marriage. The exact number of married British-Austrian couples is unknown, as is the number of children that were born as a result of these marriages. Taking into account the vicissitudes and changes of biographical memory, the proposed presentation sheds light on how these children were affected by their biological origins, paying particular consideration to identity development together with patterns and processes of integration into British society. (Show less)
Nastassia Sersté : Children Born of the Vietnam War in Vietnam, in the US and in Europe. Different Life Courses and Social Experiences. Context and Environment as an Issue?
The topic concerns children fathered by GI soldiers and born of Vietnamese mothers during the Vietnam War (1955 to 1975). I decided to study these mixed race children – commonly called “Amerasians” – who came to Europe. My methodology is based on archival research and Oral History, combining qualitative and ... (Show more)
The topic concerns children fathered by GI soldiers and born of Vietnamese mothers during the Vietnam War (1955 to 1975). I decided to study these mixed race children – commonly called “Amerasians” – who came to Europe. My methodology is based on archival research and Oral History, combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. Because the study is about children of American-Vietnamese couples, I have to be informed of several things regarding both countries to understand the life courses of the Amerasians, in addition to those living in Europe. I try to access archives in the US, Vietnam and of course Europe. Besides archival work, I conduct interviews with Amerasians. I have already had the opportunity to meet some of them in Europe, in the US, and currently in Vietnam. It provided me with a lot of interesting and relevant information and helped me to get a better idea about this particular group and in this way contributed to my research as well.
At the Belfast Conference, I would like to develop my discourse and share with the audience different experiences with the Amerasian children of the Vietnam War that I already met, putting ahead similarities and differences between countries and “cohorts”. With “cohorts” I mean some specific groups of Amerasians, such as those of the Operation Babylift, but also those of the international adoption, the Amerasians from the immigration, or those who remained in Vietnam, to mention a few examples.
Before I started conducting interviews, I naively thought that Amerasians would form one unique group of people. So I was surprised when I found out about differences within the group. I realized that we can learn several things about a topic and a specific group from previous studies but nothing is unique. One important data is the environment. There are, of course, many other elements which affect an individual and his/her life course but in my presentation I want to discuss about this particular aspect of environment, namely where people grew up and where they live today. (Show less)