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Understanding processes of risk and protection that shape the sexual and reproductive health of young women affected by conflict: The price of protection

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Aisha Hutchinson, Philippa Waterhouse, Jane March-Mcdonald, Sarah Neal, Roger Ingham

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalConflict and health
Issue number1
Early online date17 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2017


King's Authors


Background: It is assumed that knowing what puts young women at risk of poor sexual health outcomes and, in turn, what protects them against these outcomes, will enable greater targeted protection as well as help in designing more effective programmes. Accordingly, efforts have been directed towards mapping risk and protective factors onto general ecological frameworks, but these currently do not take into account the context of modern armed conflict. A literature overview approach was used to identify SRH related risk and protective factors specifically for young women affected by modern armed conflict. Processes of risk and protection: A range of keywords were used to identify academic articles which explored the sexual and reproductive health needs of young women affected by modern armed conflict. Selected articles were read to identify risk and protective factors in relation to sexual and reproductive health. While no articles explicitly identified 'risk' or 'protective' factors, we were able to extrapolate these through a thorough engagement with the text. However, we found that it was difficult to identify factors as either 'risky' or 'protective', with many having the capacity to be both risky and protective (i.e. refugee camps or family). Therefore, using an ecological model, six environments that impact upon young women's lives in contexts of modern armed conflict are used to illustrate the dynamic and complex operation of risk and protection - highlighting processes of protection and the 'trade-offs' between risks. Conclusion: We conclude that there are no simple formulaic risk/protection patterns to be applied in every conflict and post-conflict context. Instead, there needs to be greater recognition of the 'processes' of protection, including the role of 'trade-offs' (what we term as 'protection at a price'), in order to further effective policy and practical responses to improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes during or following armed conflict. Focus on specific 'factors' (such as 'female headed household') takes attention away from the processes through which factors manifest themselves and which often determine whether the factor will later be considered 'risk inducing' or protective.

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