Female combatants, forced recruitment, and civil conflict outcomes

Alex Braithwaite, Luna B. Ruiz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Women participated as combatants in almost 40% of civil conflicts that occurred between 1979 and 2009. We offer a novel argument about the effect of female combatants upon the outcomes of the civil conflicts that they join. Groups that recruit female combatants are more likely to achieve victory in their conflicts than are groups that do not recruit female combatants. However, when rebel groups rely upon forced recruitment, they risk undermining the benefits associated with female combatants, lowering their likelihood of victory relative to that of the government. We test this conditional argument using multinomial logistic regression models on a sample of 194 rebel groups globally from 1979 to 2009. We find that female participation appears to decrease the likelihood of government victory in civil wars; this effect holds primarily in instances in which female participation could plausibly be thought of as voluntary. Forced female participation, by contrast, appears to increase the likelihood of a government victory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalResearch and Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018


  • Civil conflict
  • Conflict outcomes
  • Female combatants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations


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