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Armed conflict and family outcomes: the consequences of exposure to war on fertility, teen marriage and intimate partner violence

Torrisi, Orsola (2022) Armed conflict and family outcomes: the consequences of exposure to war on fertility, teen marriage and intimate partner violence. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004450


This thesis focuses on the consequences of armed conflict on family-related outcomes. Whilst remarkable efforts have been devoted towards documenting conflict-caused excess mortality, tracing and forecasting migratory responses to war, demographic research has dedicated less attention to events occurring around the family domain in and after wartime. Yet, the family remains a fundamental component of population dynamics, and a crucial institution for individual well-being, community resilience and post-conflict social stability. This thesis addresses this knowledge gap in three empirical Chapters. Each examines the consequences of exposure to armed conflict on aspects of family formation, including fertility and marriage, and issues of family violence. Particular attention is given to experiences of conflict violence in early and young life, understood as key developmental stages and critical periods for later life outcomes. The research questions are examined in the context of the armed confrontations that characterised the former Soviet space, with emphasis on Azerbaijan and its conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. The first paper focuses on childbearing transitions. Using birth history data and demographic methods, it retraces fertility trends and patterns in Azerbaijan and examines how these have changed since independence and in relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The paper finds that, while conflict exposure had little influence on aggregate fertility trends, it affected differently the transition to different parities. In specific, it shows that exposure to war is associated with a higher risk of transitioning to the average parity level in the population, that in the Azerbaijani context is the second birth. It further documents ‘promoting’ effects on fertility after the loss of a child during the conflict, suggesting risk-insurance and replacement mechanisms as responses to traumatic conflict events. The second paper addresses the question of whether armed conflict influences the other component of family formation, i.e., the timing of marriage. In particular, it examines female teen marriage dynamics in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan. Exploiting spatial variation in conflict violence and a cohort specification that accounts for the risk of marrying in teen ages iii before and during the war, the paper provides suggestive evidence of declines in adolescent unions for the cohorts longest exposed to the conflict and highlights the role of displacement as a plausible driver. Yet, it also finds that conflict only leads to marriage postponement and is associated with theoretically adverse union characteristics, including wider spousal age and educational differences. This opens questions on how war may influence family intimate relationships. The third paper turns attention to this aspect and asks whether exposure to violence at young ages is correlated with women’s adult experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV). This is the first study to integrate theoretically and empirically literature on the long-term consequences of warfare and the scholarship on the determinants of IPV. Expanding the spatial reach of the research to all ex-Soviet states that experienced armed violence after independence (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Tajikistan), and exploiting cohort and geographical variation in conflict exposure, it finds that women affected by conflict in childhood have an elevated probability of being IPV victims, particularly of physical and sexual abuse, compared to not-exposed peers and older women. Analyses of potential pathways show no relationship between war exposure and changing marriage market conditions, or attitudes towards IPV in women. Conversely, men exposed to war in late adolescence (16-19) are more likely to condone violence against partners. Further, women’s childhood exposure to conflict correlates with having a violent father. Altogether, the findings advance our theoretical understanding of family formation processes in times of conflict as well as of the long-term consequences of war may have on other forms of violence that hinder family functioning. They are also policy-relevant and serve as inputs for the design of strategies that can foster family well-being and welfare in post-conflict Eurasia, the development of prevention programmes in conflict-prone areas in the region and timely responses where conflict violence is ongoing, like in Ukraine.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 Orsola Torrisi
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Gjonça, Arjan and Özcan, Berkay

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