Failing Adolescents: Social Control, Political Economy & Human Development in post-war Sri Lanka

Authors: Sarala Emmanuel , Kusala Wettasinghe, Fiona Samuels, Sivaprashanthi Thambaiah, Indrani Rajendran, and Ananda Galappatti

Stability: International Journal of Security & Development, 4(1): 18, pp. 1-18,

This paper is an output of ReBUILD’s affiliate research partners, the Overseas Development Institute, and their project: Psychosocial support and service provision for adolescent girls in post-conflict settings.

You can access and download the full paper here.


In post-war societies adolescents occupy liminal spaces – where social, political, economic, spatial and biological boundaries are still fluid and undetermined – and present a particular challenge for post-war communities as well as service providers.

Drawing on a study from two war-affected villages in Sri Lanka, this paper examines the multi-faceted challenges that adolescents face in communities attempting to retain and redefine boundaries, identities, and social and moral regulation in a post-war context. It explores the dynamics of post-war change, especially in the social and moral regulation of sexuality, and its implications for adolescent girls and boys grappling with biological and social transformation—from internalizing gender norms to taking on adult economic roles.

A second key concern of this paper is to underline how the post-war political economic context within which their communities are embedded shapes adolescents’ negotiation with personal and social transformation.

A third key concern is to highlight the legacies of war in the form of surveillance, silences and complex psychosocial problems that adolescents are confronted in post-war contexts and the risk of cycles of inter-generational violence. Finally, the paper examines the role and relevance of formal services in areas such as education, reproductive health, community mobilization, or psychosocial support in the lives of adolescents.  It also considers the often overlooked but fundamental support from families and communities in bolstering the resilience of adolescents as they go through this challenging life phase in difficult and complex circumstances.

This resource was produced by the ReBUILD programme – the precursor of ReBUILD for Resilience.