British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 23 Issue 4 (November 2005), Pages 487-660

The development of enemy images in Dutch children: Measurement and initial findings (pages 645-660)

While there is ample evidence that enemies and enemy images are prerequisites in preparedness for war, little information is available about children's understanding of enemies or the presence of enemy images. Based on a pilot study in which assessment instruments were developed and validated, the present study examined the understanding of enemies and the presence of enemy images in 221 Dutch children aged between 7 and 12 years. The instruments employed involved the request to draw an enemy and an individual interview. Contrary to the expectation that younger children's enemy images would consist primarily of fictitious, non‐human figures, whereas older children's images would focus more on realistic others as enemies, the findings revealed an opposite developmental course: younger children perceived enemies more often as concrete others, while older children perceived enemies more often as non‐human, fictitious others. In addition, an age‐related increase in children's experienced threats that cannot be reduced to concrete external causes was observed. Taken together with a growing awareness that enemies are characterized primarily by internal personality characteristics, latent (undefined) enemy images may easily become concrete enemies when an external focus is provided.

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