CBOW definition history

Background information CBOW

There have always been children born during and after conflicts and wars where the father has been a member of an enemy, allied or peacekeeping force and the mother a local citizen.

Knowledge available so far indicates that the consequences for many of the children have been devastating, independent of whether the relationship between mother and father was of a loving or exploitative nature. The children are born with a stigma of belonging to the enemy and are often treated as such, both at the social and political level. Some have been abandoned, abused, mobbed, excluded from family and community and even harassed by the state.

Little evidence exists on this topic, as the mothers are often too bitter or traumatized to talk about their experiences. The children themselves may have no knowledge about their biological origin or they know, feel and hear about their origin from relatives or community members, but are too afraid to address the issue – from an early age they learn that this topic is a taboo.

Nevertheless, some information exists from different conflicts and countries such as children fathered by German soldiers and local women in occupied countries during World War II, children fathered by US soldiers and Vietnamese women during the Vietnam war, and children born of rape as a military strategy of ethnic cleansing during the civil war in former Yugoslavia. 

Some researchers working on this topic in different historical and geographical contexts met at a workshop in Cologne in December 2006 organized by the “War and Children Identity Project” in Bergen, Norway and the Zentralarchiv für empirische Sozialforschung, Cologne, Germany. Participants in alphabetic order: Eunice Apio, Jasna Balorda, R. Charli Carpenter, Ebba Drolshagen, Josef Focks, Elna Johnsen, Stein Ugelvik Larsen, Ingvill C. Mochmann, Kerry L. Neal, Arne Øland.

An abstract and programme of the meeting can be found here

Opening presentation of Mochmann can be found here andhere

Minutes of the meeting can be found here

For a published summary of the expert meeting regarding the topic “Consolidating the Evidence Base of Children Born of War” (Mochmann 2006), please click here


Terminology used in describing children fathered by enemy soldiers in different conflicts vary.

In Norway, for example, the neutral term used to characterise children fathered by German soldiers and Norwegian women during WWII is “krigsbarn” (war children) or “tyskerunge” (German kid). The French used the expression “Enfants de Boches”, and the Dutch “moeffenkinder”. The term “Wehrmachtskinder” introduced by Drolshagen (2005) might be meaningful with regard to describing children fathered by German soldiers in occupied territories during WWII, however, is not applicable as a concept describing children born of war in conflict and war across time and nation. In Vietnam, for example, the children of US soldiers and Vietnamese women were called “Bui doi” (dust of life) (Grieg 2001:20). Many other expressions are used to describe children born in different wars, common for most are that their names have a negative touch.

In 2006 a group of researcher working on the topic decided to apply the term ‘children born of war’ (Mochmann 2006). Following the suggestion by Ingvill C. Mochmann it was agreed that the term “children born of war” introduced by R.Charli Carpenter in her research on children born of sexual exploitation and abuse was considered the most appropriate concept as it is objective and embeds all children who have one parent who is part of an army or peace keeping force and the other parent a local citizen independent of time and geographical context, type of conflict and origin of conception (cf. Grieg 2001). Children born of war may be defined as “a child that has one parent that was part of an army or peace keeping force and the other parent a local citizen”


Categories of children born of war as suggested by Mochmann at the expert meeting in 2006 were first presented at the workshop “Juventud Embotellada”, University of Alicante, October 2006  (published 2008):

Children born of war might be categorised in four main types: children of enemy soldiers, children of soldiers from occupational forces, children of child soldiers and children of peacekeeping forces (Mochmann 2008: 55-57).

Children of enemy soldiers

These children are fathered by foreign soldiers who are located in the country or region and clearly defined as enemies such as German soldiers in Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, France, Russia etc. during WWII or Bosnian Serb Army in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in former Yugoslavia 1991 to 1995 and US soldiers in Vietnam.

Children of soldiers from occupational forces

In this case the soldiers can be seen as enemies or allied, depending on the view of the local population. The allied forces occupying Germany in the post WWII years were for example in the population by some conceived as saviours and by others as enemies. In the case of Canadian troops in Great Britain or the Netherlands or US troops on Iceland, these were allied troops. Nevertheless, a liaison between local women and participants of the allied forces was often not accepted in the community and both mothers and children were stigmatised.

Children of child soldiers

In recent years, the topic of children born by child soldiers has reached the public agenda. According to News from the Office of the special Representative of the Secretary General for children and Armed Conflict an estimated 25.000 children, of whom 7.500 are girls have been abducted by the  Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda since the start of the conflict, some 1000 are ”child mothers” who conceived while in captivity (UN News Centre, 2006). This implies that in Uganda alone more than 1000 babies can be assumed to have been born from girl soldiers. Considering that girls are involved in many other wars and conflicts around the world such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leona and Indonesia, it becomes clear that this is not a marginal problem, particularly when also taking into account that the number may be assumed to be even higher as many girls probably will not tell because of shame and not wanting to be stigmatised.

Children of peacekeeping forces

The issue of sexual exploitation and abuse arose end 2004 with the revelation that UN peacekeepers had engaged in such practices in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Some victims were abandoned orphans who were often illiterate and Secretary-General Kofi Annan immediately instituted a “policy of zero tolerance”. As part of further efforts by the United Nations to enforce its “zero tolerance” policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, a draft strategy (A/60/877) on assistance and support to victims of such behaviour by UN staff and related personnel was prepared.

Minutes of the meeting and programme can be found here.

An update on the development of the research area of children born of war has been published in:

Children Born of War – A Decade of International and Interdisciplinary Research
Ingvill C. Mochmann
Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung
Vol. 42, No. 1 (159), Markets and Classifications. Categorizations and Valuations as Social Processes Structuring Markets (2017), pp. 320-346 (27 pages) https://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/handle/document/51163