Honduras: Violence, Research and Young People’s Patterns of Thought


In 2015, I assisted on a research study on intimate partner violence in urban and rural areas of Honduras. This summer, in collaboration with the National Foundation for the Development of Honduras (FUNADEH), I conducted fieldwork in the San Pedro Sula area that involved a cross-sectional study on child and adolescent moral judgments and reasoning on violence, and youth focus groups. The purpose of the study was to examine moral judgments and the coordination of social, personal, and moral concepts of young people related to physical aggression in the contexts of gangs. The aims of the focus groups were to explore the topic of violence more broadly. I also sought to build long-term relationships with FUNADEH staff, scholars, practitioners, and organizations as well as to lay the groundwork for continued developmental research. Lastly, because no study on youth moral reasoning has been conducted in Honduras, this study will contribute to research associated with violence. I visited over 10 neighborhoods and Outreach Centers, where I spoke with coordinators, community members, and FUNADEH staff. I interviewed 55 participants who were ages 11-12, 14-15, and 17-18-years old, and I facilitated 2 youth focus groups. In addition, I took the opportunity to shadow a medical student attending to adolescent victims of gun and gang violence at the largest public hospital serving the department of Cortes. There I informally spoke with the youth their mothers and their siblings. I achieved two or the three objectives I originally proposed. I gathered enough interview data from which to do qualitative and quantitative analysis. The focus groups offered key contextual insight and possible areas of future research. Due to time constraints, we were unable to conduct professional workshops. However, I am in conversation with the FUNADEH program director and USAID staff in regards to assessing the findings of my study and conducting future research in the country. Almost a month later, I am still processing the lessons learned. First, I observed a palpable sense of hypervigilance from both adults and young people associated with actual and perceived forms of violence. My movements were substantially constrained in terms of the inability to leave FUNADEH’s premises or step outside the electrified, barbed-wire walls surrounding the house I was staying at, as well as having to be driven everywhere in vehicles with windows completely tinted. Second, I gained a better sense of the concerns young people have in participating in research associated with violence. A few FUNADEH staff and students at one center spoke with me of the hesitations in participating for fear of possible retaliation if someone associated with a gang would overhear. Third, I learned is that there is much mistrust between young people and adults in general, but that FUNADEH and USAID's efforts have forged bonds of trust in communities. Fourth, the complexity of children and adolescents thinking about their living conditions amid violence must be taken into consideration to challenge assumptions held by adults that impact decisions in social policy, security measures, and prevention efforts. Lastly, my belief strengthened in that developmental researchers have a vital role in piercing through assumptions and contribute to…

Franklin Moreno
Publication date: 
August 27, 2016
Publication type: 
Student Research