Violent Conflicts and Child Development: Evidence from Colombia

Valentina Duque, Columbia University

This study examines the effect of exposure to violent conflicts in-utero and in childhood on child’s physical, cognitive, and socio-emotional development. The study exploits the exogenous variation in Colombia’s armed conflict across municipalities and months as a natural experiment, and measures violence using massacre shocks. Results indicate that exposure to massacres during pregnancy reduces birth weight, and both prenatal and post-natal exposures to violence reduce a child’s height-for-age, cognitive test-scores, and worsens socio-emotional behavior. I further examine potential pathways of transmission, at the household level, by which violence may affect children. The findings show that violence reduces household economic resources and negatively affects the home environment (parenting), providing evidence that stress is an important mechanism. The paper carefully examines potential sources of selection bias due to violence such as geographic sorting, migration, fertility, and survival.

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Presented in Session 83: Effects of Fetal and Childhood Conditions on Adult Health Outcomes