Rebel Leader Age and the Outcomes of Civil Wars Academic Article uri icon


  • What determines the outcomes of civil wars? Existing literature highlights numerous factors at the systemic, state, and organizational levels of analysis. Yet there is little research on the attributes of rebel leaders in shaping war outcomes despite ample theories of their importance in steering their organizations. This article focuses on rebel leaders age as one key driver of their behavior. Applying insights from developmental psychology to the context of armed rebellion, we argue that young rebel leaders are the most likely to suffer military defeats, middle-aged leaders to win military victories, and elderly ones to reach negotiated settlements. We use a mixed-methods strategy to substantiate our claims, combining case studies of George Washington and Yasser Arafat with new data from the Rebel Organization Leaders (ROLE) database. Our findings help advance the study of non-state violent leaders in world politics while illuminating neglected sources of risk and opportunity for peace practitioners.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 8.95

author list (cited authors)

  • Silverman, D., Acosta, B., & Huang, R.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Silverman, Daniel||Acosta, Benjamin||Huang, Reyko

publication date

  • 2023