This Is Your Brain on Conflict: Reframing Our Understanding of Youth & Violence

Teresa Walsh, Peter Weinberger, Emile Bruneau
Devex, Resonance Global, University of Pennsylvania
Resource Type: 
Publication Date: 
Sep 26, 2018

Early CVE interventions emphasized job creation for young people coupled with a “hearts and minds” approach, based on the assumption that youth radicalization stemmed from economic frustration, and that economic opportunity and anti-violence messaging would present a viable and more convincing alternative. Today, we know that having a job is not enough to prevent a young person from joining an extremist group, and when it comes to “hearts and minds”, the authenticity of the messenger matters. In fact, a growing body of knowledge about CVE paints a far more complex picture of what drives radicalization, with financial incentives and the experience (real and perceived) of social injustice and marginalization currently considered to be the leading, but not the only drivers.


While our understanding of CVE has deepened, it also raises hard questions about what really works to stem violence among young people. Do our existing frameworks for understanding youth and violence really serve youth? Do traditional approaches offer a viable basis for impactful youth programs and policies, including those that effectively counter violent extremism? This plenary is focused on reframing our understanding of youth and violence through the lens of  brain science, trauma, and healing. What does neuroscience teach us about how we create, experience, and change because of traumatic stress and conflict? How might this new awareness about trauma-informed approaches help us support young peoples’ resilience, recovery, and healing in our economic opportunities programs?

Soft Skills
Adolescent Girls
Community Development
Conflict Area
Conflict Prevention
Men & Boys
Orphans & Vulnerable Children