Policy Brief

The Impact of the Yemeni Civil War on Child Attachment Styles

Rumaisah Wajid
Connie Wu
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Research Question:

How do parent-child relationships during the Yemeni Civil War impact the attachment styles of children with long-lasting consequences?


The Yemeni Civil War has proven detrimental to the health of millions of children, as many have suffered from malnutrition, violence, and psychological trauma. The lack of access to proper early childhood development may be attributed to the war’s impact on parent-child relations. Attachment style, or the security of a child’s relationship to parental figures, depends greatly on the interactions experienced in early childhood. As the war has undoubtedly created an environment of trauma and compromised parenting ability, it is important to evaluate the status of children’s attachment styles. While secure attachments correlate with healthy peer relationships and mental health, insecure attachments facilitate depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and an inability to form in- depth relationships. Besides impacting parent-child relationships, the war has also stripped children of development opportunities through forced labor, military recruitment, and early marriage. The exposure to premature experiences also has speculatively affected children’s ability to form secure attachments.

The potential long-lasting impact makes it crucial to conduct research on the correlation between war exposure and attachment styles. We propose UNICEF to collect data on the prevalence of war trauma and negative psychological health in both parents and children, an evaluation of parenting quality, and the current security of attachment styles. With these measures, UNICEF can create statistical analyses to determine the correlation between these variables.

Not only can trauma impact development in the adolescent stage, insecure attachment styles persist into adulthood and can be transferred intergenerationally, creating an endless cycle. Moreover, insecure attachment issues can lead to violent and criminal tendencies later on, and potentially cause more physical conflict in the near future. It is therefore important to conduct comprehensive studies of attachment styles, identify the factors contributing to negative attachments, and evaluate any psychological issues that have resulted because of it. This research can help create preventative interventions and psychosocial support, reversing war trauma and preventing long-term ramifications of insecure attachments in children.

Specific Aims:

  • To evaluate the distribution of secure and insecure attachment styles of Yemeni children. Secure attachments in children are a necessity in establishing healthy psychological development and an ability to create social bonds later in life. Although it is a key factor in social, emotional and cognitive development, studies done on the effects of the Yemeni war on children have not included how the war fosters insecure attachments.
  •  To analyze the impact of war trauma on parenting ability. Because quality parenting is necessary for secure attachments, it is important to determine how negative psychological impacts of the war are transferred from adults onto children, as well as how first-hand war trauma experienced by children affect attachment styles.
  •  To determine the intersection of forced child maturity and compromised psychological development. Many children are forced into child labor, military recruitment, and marriage affecting their development. Furthermore, the insecure attachments that are formed because of these factors are passed on through premature maternity and conditioned violence.
  • To predict long-term impacts on delinquency/crime even after the war. Because there is a known linkage of insecure attachments and delinquency, violent tendencies and criminal behaviors may persist in the aftermath of the war and cause a cycle of conflict.
  • To inform psychosocial support interventions carried out by UNICEF in Yemen. Our goal is to address child development in regards to insecure attachments in children, and enact psychosocial measures to alleviate war trauma and its ramifications.

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