How Civil War Experience Affects Dimensions of Social Trust in a Cross-National Comparison

50 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2015 Last revised: 8 Jan 2015

See all articles by Richard Traunmüller

Richard Traunmüller

University of Mannheim - School of Social Sciences

David Born

Independent

Markus Freitag

University of Bern - Institute of Political Science

Date Written: January 6, 2015

Abstract

We challenge the conventional assumption that experiences of civil war inevitably destroy social trust. Civil wars are transformative forces whose societal outcomes depend on processes defining these collective experiences. Providing the first cross-national comparative study of civil war and social trust, we examine these processes and their consequences for dimensions of social trust in 30 post-conflict societies. Results reveal that although on average civil wars reduce trust, violence of higher intensity leads to positive transformation and greater trust in out-groups and strangers. We further show that religious civil wars clearly surpass ethnic civil wars in terms of their negative consequences for generalized trust. Our findings also suggest that abrupt changes in institutional infrastructure are less relevant for trust relations than the disruption of social networks that occurs through forced displacement. Last, we present evidence that while societies rebuild social trust over time, the way the conflict ended is less consequential.

Keywords: Social Trust, Civil War, Post-traumatic Growth, Large N Cross-national Comparison

Suggested Citation

Traunmüller, Richard and Born, David and Freitag, Markus, How Civil War Experience Affects Dimensions of Social Trust in a Cross-National Comparison (January 6, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2545816. or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2545816

Richard Traunmüller (Contact Author)

University of Mannheim - School of Social Sciences ( email )

Germany

David Born

Independent ( email )

Markus Freitag

University of Bern - Institute of Political Science ( email )

Fabrikstrasse 8
Bern, 3012
Switzerland

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