Research on the psychological concomitants of forgiveness has direct implications for therapy with traumatized and war-affected children. Finding that forgiveness has been linked with well-being has led to the promotion of reconciliation following political violence. Whether responses to war, however, should be corrected or modified has encountered strong challenges from those who insist that truth-telling and justice must precede forgiveness and that such psychological forays may undermine social and political recovery. When post-traumatic symptoms such as nightmares and re-enactments persist, moral dilemmas around anger, guilt are often at play. The (re)-construction of a narrative is often prescribed as a therapeutic means of attenuating the impact of potentially traumatic events.
Forgiveness has been highlighted as a transformation that may accompany or foster recovery from trauma. However, following violence, the child struggling with notions of vengeance, justice and forgiveness must re-create a narrative at the same time that his or her relevant culture(s) or nations(s) are struggling to do so and often in the context of conflicting historical accounts, memories and narratives. Focus on children’s moral competence and development in contexts of violence is rare. Developmental research increasingly indicates that, from an early age, children distinguish moral judgments regarding fairness and harm from judgments about social conventions. Based on a review of the literature and on examples from interviews and play sessions with children, we argue for the clarification of the moral and political dimension in the study of appropriate interventions for war- affected youth.