Graduand challenges youth bulge theory
With a master’s degree from SFU soon to be under her belt, Leanne Baumung hopes her thesis will inspire change in the way academics and policy makers view youth bulges around the world.
Youth bulge theory maintains that a disproportionately large youth population, particularly young males, predictably leads to social unrest, war, terrorism and genocide. The theory holds that much of the current social upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa is attributable to the fact that 65 per cent of the region’s population is youth. In comparison, Canada’s is only 24 per cent.
But Baumung’s thesis for her MA in international studies argues that conflict mitigation policies based on the youth bulge theory are often ineffective. And the former North Vancouver resident says they fail to account for the fact that most people in youth bulge societies don’t engage in violence.
“Widespread acceptance of the youth bulge theory has given rise to policies that target youth as security threats, rather than engaging them as agents of change,” says Baumung. The Southern Alberta-born graduand’s research included literature reviews, statistical analyses and discussions with Palestinian youth.
“Policies in response to the youth bulge theory can restrict the activities of young people, often threatening their rights and freedoms and ultimately their ability to help remedy structural inequalities and fractured societies.”
Baumung calls for a reworking of the theory’s premise that youth are inherently violent and are “ticking time bombs” which need to be “detonated” in developing states.
“To attribute youth violence to ‘nature’, as youth bulge theory does, is not only erroneous, it is irresponsible,” says Baumung, who grew in in Kauai, Hawaii. “An accurate redefinition would acknowledge the power of youth to instigate change, but stop short of attributing violence to young people as a decided outcome.”
Now a policy analyst with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in Ottawa, Baumung specializes in human development and gender equality.
Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.
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