What is it about?

It has now been 26 years since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi took place in Rwanda, and many of those who lived through it are today raising the next generation of Rwandans. This study explored the cultural practices of Rwandan parents surrounding exposure of their children to accounts of genocide history in both the private and public realm, the age at which children were exposed to information from different sources, and the extent to which exposure moderated parent-reported child outcomes. A survey of 317 parents was conducted across each of Rwanda’s four provinces and Kigali City. Results found that parents disclosed the genocide openly with their children and that children were exposed to information about the genocide from the community. Parents tended to share stories at home before exposing their children to public sources of information. Significant correlations were found between a number of private (parent disclosure) and public (commemoration, school) sources of information about the genocide and a range of parent-reported child problem outcomes (mental health problems, communication problems, social problems, education problems, and general parental challenges related to the genocide). Qualitative content analysis suggested that this correlation may be the result of incongruence between the stories of the genocide and its history in private and public spaces. While it is clear that parents want to teach their children about the genocide, they are having to do so in an environment where information about the genocide is abundant yet politically and socially sensitive.

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Why is it important?

This study found that children’s exposure to information about the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda from both private and public sources was associated with poorer parent-reported child outcomes. This finding may be explained by conflicting stories about the genocide that circulate in public and private spaces, increasing the risk of children receiving incongruent messages.

Perspectives

This article stems from a project on parenting after genocide in Rwanda. We hope that this article and the broader project from which it comes will contribute to our knowledge about managing complex trauma in families and the important role played by parents and communities in mitigating the long-term consequences of violence for future generations.

Caroline Williamson Sinalo
University College Cork

Parenting in the aftermath of political violence has many challenges, in particular how to manage the relationship between personal and social narratives. Through exploring what parents tell their children within the intimacy of family life, this paper aims to contribute to understanding psychological processes within family and community contexts to inform intervention and policy.

Angela Veale

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This page is a summary of: Disclosure of genocide experiences in Rwandan families: Private and public sources of information and child outcomes., Peace and Conflict Journal of Peace Psychology, November 2021, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pac0000521.
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