Violence R Not Us
|Is Violence Normal or Dysfunctional?||Violence in Schools||Bullying in Schools|
|The Media and Violence||Effects on Children||Do We Have Responsibility?|
|Children’s Thoughts About Peace & Violence|
Some people argue that violence has always been around since time immemorial and will always be. Is this true? Does this leave room for possibilities of change?
Is conflict and violence the same thing? or is conflict simply disagreement which is a natural and healthy part of being human? If conflict is natural then what is violence? Is violence the outcome of negative intent, suppression and/or conditioning? (refer below for anecdotal research about what children think and feel).
Whenever I wonder if humans behaviour is nature (innate) or nurture (learned), I recall the story of feral children who have lived with animals. Then I am reminded that life is powerfully influenced by conditioning through the environment in which we live.
Young children who have been raised by animals from a young age identify more with their adoptive animal parents than human beings, whom they perceive as alien or dangerous. Virtually all feral children resist capture, prefer to live in the wild, attempt escapes from humans, keep away or avoid humans and some sit expressionless. Feral children show no interest in children their own age nor the games they play. They don’t recognise their reflection and show no signs of attachment to another person. They are not known to laugh or cry. They exhibit behaviour of the adoptive family. They lap drink, learn animal sounds and gestures. They dislike clothes and tear clothes off. Feral children seek the company of animals. Interestingly enough wild animals will approach feral children ( http://www.smashinglists.com/10-feral-human-children-raised-by-animals/ ). These fascinating stories highlight how powerful social conditioning and environment is. If a child raised by wolves does not identify with humans at all, this reveals that identity and behaviour is learned from the environment.
So looking at violence in the world. Some may say animals are violent but how do we know their intention is violent (negative intent) or simply survival instincts? Could this be a human projection? When we observe nature it is obvious the natural system self regulates and that populations are culled by the balance of predators and prey. We are also part of nature but we appear to differ because we have more complex thinking and feeling processes. Our emotional states filter the world we see. Think about how you would feel if you won the lottery and then think about how you feel when you are heartbroken. How does the world look to you? If you are constantly watching violent images, how does that effect you emotionally? How does that shape your world? Think about it and then go into your feeling. What will create positive feelings? what will create a positive world?
Violence is learned behaviour and it is very important that children learn that violence is not a healthy way to resolve conflict. It is healthy to have a difference of opinion, it doesn’t have to be negative if the other doesn’t agree.
If we view the world as it is and see that everyone has different life experiences and sees the world in a different way, maybe we can agree to disagree without attachment to winning the argument at any cost.
Living in a violent environment increases children’s chances of developing behavioural problems. It teaches them that this is how we deal with conflict and can set up life patterns that can cause great misery and suffering in themselves and others they impact on.
Michael Moore in his documentary ‘Bowling for Columbine’ talks about the increasing violence in society and the core issue of fear. He talks about the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado, USA and interviews the Public Relations Manager at Lockheed Martin, the arms manufacturer for the US Government. He raises questions and links nations settling disputes through violence (war) and violence within the schools. Interestingly, under national law, the gunmen at Columbine High (had they lived) would have been convicted of murder and sent to jail. Whereas those who murder on behalf of groups of people (official governments) are not tried under international law. Other groups who kill (unofficial) are called ‘terrorists’ (disagree) or ‘freedom fighters’ (agree) depending on the side you are on.
Why do our ethics and values change because the decision is made by a group we perceive as an authority? Does killing work given where we want to go as a society or civilisation? At the end of the day whether the group is official or unofficial, they both kill the enemy to achieve a goal. In reality the killing of a person inflicts not only pain and suffering on the victim but the friends and families of the victim. In addition, communities experience enormous psychological fear and upheaval. The children grow up with lifetime wounds and viewing the world as a dangerous place. Does war create real peace? Is that possible? Do we want real peace? When you start to look underneath you can sense power (control through fear) and propaganda (influence through perceptions of right and wrong) at work.
Looking at our society are we teaching violence to our children through violent videos, movies and warfare live on cable T.V.? Is the message that using violence is how we solve problems? In truth it is a traditional paradigm of power over others through fear (bullying). Fear is used to change behaviour at every level of our society. However, does changing behaviour change beliefs? does it change your beliefs? If people don’t willingly change beliefs to align with behaviour, people become suppressed and resentful when forced by others.
What is the difference between a terrorist and a soldier? Both kill on orders. What creates terror? What creates war? Why do we use violence to settle disputes? Why can’t parents be taught to use models of empowerment or love, that is, teaching children to make choices and accept responsibility for outcomes? Why do we still teach children through our example that they must do as we say? Do we always do what we say? Are we really asking them what they think or feel? Why not empower children rather than use force? We must think about this if we are to survive as a species.
Violence in Schools
In the US, violence and youth violence in particular, is considered the most serious challenge to society. This view is strengthened by the teenage shootings at Columbine High school, Littleton, Colorado. Two teenagers threatened and killed classmates with high-powered rifles. The cause of this behaviour is perceived to be associated with the boys feeling ostracised, stigmatised and bullied by their classmates and teachers. The violence is regarded as a learned response to frustration. Littleton provides an example of the cultural acceptance of using violence as a form of problem solving. Violence in schools is considered the most pressing educational issue in the US. Some critics assert that schools are failing to respond to the problem decisively, risking support for public education. 
In Australia, the recent October 21, 2002 shooting at Monash University, raised concern about violence in schools. In this incident an armed man with a hand gun killed two people.  These incidents raise community fear of not feeling safe and raise questions about the use of violence to solve problems.
Dr Christie from Queensland University of Technology states that schools have been long recognised as the primary sites of violence.  Violence ranges from verbal assault to criminal assaults. Moreover, it was found in a study that between 50-60% of boys and 40% of girls had homophobic feelings. In Western Australia (1992) boys were suspended for physical assault 25 times more than girls. In Victoria, 83% of students suspended were boys mostly for physical and verbal abuse. In the ACT, (1996) an increase in violent behaviour was evident in Primary school, kindergarten and pre-schools. 
Factors underlying violence are considered complex. The circumstances and background of those committing acts of violence include: socio-economic status, family life and relationships, school, work and community experiences. In addition, the gaps between rich and poor can be a catalyst for violence. The media and media based entertainment can and does influence violence. 
Factors associated with antisocial and criminal behaviour include child disability, low self- esteem, poor social skills, alienation and impulsive behaviour. School related factors include: school failure, deviant peer group, bullying, peer rejection and inadequate behaviour management. Family factors include: teenage mothers, father absence, disharmony, family violence, family break up and divorce. The family is consistently presented as having the greatest influence on children.  A myriad of factors associated with child violence and aggression include child maltreatment and poor parental child-rearing practices. The child is trained to be aggressive through early coercive familial interaction patterns. Parents model and children learn coercive behaviours to escape negative stimuli. 
Bullying in Schools
Bullying is recognised as a form of violent behaviour. In Australia, a study of 7,500 students reported that 20% of students aged between 5-17 years were bullied at least once a week. Bullying is considered more prevalent in Primary school.  Moreover, one in twenty children is a bully. 
According to research conducted in the UK the playground was the most common site for bullying. In the US, bullying is estimated to affect 10-20% of the student population, most notably verbal teasing and intimidation. 
Professor Ken Rigby from the University of South Australia, states that bullying is ‘the repeated oppression of a less powerful person by a more powerful person or group”. Bullying is classified as physical, verbal and psychological. Bullying is based on threat or fear. Once the pattern is set up the bully does not have to do much to produce fear and the victim finds it impossible to break this cycle. 
There are 7 elements to bullying:
- Desire to hurt – inflict pain
- Bullying acts on desire;
- Action is hurtful;
- An imbalance of power – bully is stronger and more powerful (physically, psychologically);
- There is no justification for the action, victim has done nothing;
- It is persistent behaviour;
- The bully enjoys hurting the victim. 
Bullying becomes entrenched in society because of secrecy and a culture that perceives it is bad to ‘dob‘ happening. 
Families of victims are typically overprotective whereas families of bullies don’t care. There is an inconsistency in dealing with behavioural problems. Punishment may be inconsistent or perhaps too harsh.
The child absorbs the message that the world is unpredictable and unfair. 
The consequences of bullying is low self esteem, stress, anxiety attacks and nightmares. In some cases persistent bullying has let to suicide. Moreover, as a result of constant fear schoolwork suffers and concentration is poor. Studies have revealed that people persistently bullied as children can cause adult depression and difficulty in forming relationships. 
From the perspective of bullies, their life chances are minimised. A high proportion of bullies achieve little at school, leave early and then get into trouble with the law. They are four times more likely to come before the court and be convicted of anti-social offences. This entrenches in their life patterns and their children are likely to become bullies. Hence, aggressive children may grow up to become violent parents or members of the community.  The behaviour of bullying has negative impacts on both the bully and victim. It is important to create a culture that does not tolerate this kind of behaviour. Overseas projects have proven that schools make a difference by creating happier and safer places for children. 
Strategies for dealing with bullying include peer mediation to provide the means of raising awareness and empowering students to take responsibility for resolving problems. Providing lifetime skills such as effective communication, listening, assertiveness and problem solving. Other important skills include: relating skills, self-esteem, accepting own feelings and developing empathy for others and conflict resolution skills.  It is important as a class that children discuss openly bullying and develop class rules which impacts on the school ethos. 
 SMH, ‘Two shot dead, five wounded at Monash Uni’,
Online at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/10/21/1034561430158.html
 Christie, op.cit. ‘Introduction’ .
 Christie, op.cit, ‘ Violence in Schools’.
 Christie, op.cit, ‘Factors Underlying Violence’ .
 Christie, op.cit, ‘Factors Underlying Violence’
 Christie, op.cit, ‘Family Influences’
 Berne, S. An Effective Anti-Bullying Program for Primary Schools , p6
 Christie, op. cit. ‘Bullying in Schools’
 Berne, S. op.cit , p2
 Berne, S. Ibid .
 Berne, S. Ibid ., p6
 Berne, S. Ibid.
 Berne, S. Ibid. , pp7-8
 Berne, S. op. cit. , pp8-9
 Berne, S. Ibid.
 Berne, S. Ibid. , p14
 Berne, S. Ibid. , pp14-15
The Media and Violence
Society will need to question violence in the media. There are many sides to the debate that argue that media affects behaviour and other schools of thought state that it doesn’t. In my personal life I have found myself modelling from the media and conclude that what we expose ourselves to becomes part of our memory and can be drawn upon to make sense of the world. As a market researcher I am aware that television programming is not representative of the wider world. Programming is selective with the aim of maximising advertising revenue. Therefore the main motivation is profitability not social responsibility or complete information.
The media is viewed as furthering violence by:
- Overall – Popularisation of violence in the media;
- Print media – some depict cartoons which encourage laughter at cruelty;
- Magazines – some degrade women and link them with violence and being victims;
- Video – can be intensely violent, sexually sadistic, pro-war videos are a serious international problem.
(Source: Jane Chesneau, Australian Television Action Committee, Conference on Weapons and Violence in Australia, 1989)
Is Television Violent?
- What one person sees as violent may not be seen the same way;
- Few meaningful definitions of violence;
- Broadcasters accused of allowing too much violence on TV (Gunter, Wober: 1988)
- UK – 2,078 programmes analysed, using a 4 week sample, under 30.1% contained some violence, frequency of violence 1.7 acts per hour (Cumberbatch: 1987)
- NZ – 846 episodes of violence on one week, 9.5 acts per hour,
- Sweden, Switzerland – low rates of violence, 2 acts per hour (NZ Foundation for Peace Studies: 1986);
- Average Australian child – see 15,000 murders on TV during school year;
- 97% of crime shows, 74% adventure, 86% cartoons contain violence.
(Chain Reaction: 1992)
The Debate: ‘Television Violence Causes Aggression’ – Pro
- Research in 50’s and 60’s flaws, methods and designs improved;
- Reports support findings: 1972 Surgeon General’s Report, 1982 National Institute of Mental Health, Psychological Society, Royal Commission on Violence in Communications Industry, CRTC, UNESCO; (Joesphson:1995)
- Feshback & Singer study (1973) found boys viewing aggressive TV showed increase in aggressive behaviour;
- Belson study (1978) interviewed 1565 teenage boys in England between 1959 and 1971 – boys gave info on own level of violence, frequency. Belson found that viewers who watched high amounts of violence reported greater violence; (Williams: 1986);
- Many social scientists agree there is a causal relationship;
- Bidirectional model – television violence influences aggression, aggression influences preference for television violence
- (Huston & Friedrich-Cofer:1986)
- Comprehension of Children – Age
- Up to 18 months – short attention spans;
- 2 1/2 yrs – fully fledged viewers, limited meaning, imitate, prefer cartoons;
- 3-5 yrs – exploration approach, search for meaning. Behave aggressively after watching high action;
- 6-7 years – critical time. Cognitive ability to follow plots, inference, consequences, less mental effort (effort determines processing);
- 8 years – more sensitive to content, not aggressive if violence portrayed as evil, suffering, likely to show aggression if violence reflects real life, identify character or engage in aggressive fantasies;
- 6-11 yrs – watching more adult shows, taste for horror, desensitising themselves to fear and violence, likely to become tolerant to violence in real world;
- 12-17 yrs – abstract thought, reasoning, little mental effort, prefer music videos, horror, pornography (boys) deal with topics in negative way. Adolescents doubt reality of TV, challenge authority.
(Source: W. Josephson, Television Violence: A Review of the Effects on Children of Different Ages)
Effects on Children
In the literature on television violence the following points were made regarding the impact on children.
- Physical aggression, potential to injure, verbal abuse, threats (Williams:1986)
- Belson study (1978) – television affected teenagers pre-disposed to violence;
- Experiment – group of children shown TV film of someone playing roughly with doll, given similar doll, more likely to play violently (NZ Foundation for Peace Studies:1986);
- Psychological research found televised violence has effects on children – imitation, copycat violence;
- Emotional effects on children, desensitise;
- Resort to physical violence to resolve conflicts;
- 300 studies in 1986 – preschoolers more physically aggressive as a result of watching television;
- Children who create violent or heroically aggressive fantasies and identify with heroes are likely to be affected by violent television, fantasies as rehearsals for violent response to real-life events.
(Source: W. Josephson, Television Violence: A Review of the Effects on Children of Different Ages)
Do We Have A Responsibility?
- UN 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child;
- Rights concerned with the need to develop; individual abilities and learn to be useful members of society;
- Many families are more arenas of conflict;
- Most Important Factor – the quality of the relationship with parents.
(Source: Conference on Weapons and Violence in Australia, 1989)
What Do Children Think and Feel about Peace and Violence?
Selected anecdotal research in Primary (Elementary) Schools, Melbourne Australia 2003.
Children from 4 Melbourne primary schools were involved in a pilot study of the REAL HOPE program. They answered questions in relation to peace and violence. The children were aged between 6 and 10 years old. This information was collected during a ‘brainstorm session’ with 8 classes across 4 schools. It is anecdotal information and is not representative of all children. The information is to generate discussion and for interest. Codes in brackets refer to schools.
Q. When I say the word peace what do you think or feel?
- Quiet, calm, relaxing, peace clown, enjoyment, peace in the world, sleeping, no racism, keep stuff when angry to yourself (OV)
- No war, quietness, happy people, happiness, harmony, love, togetherness (OV)
- Yin and yang, quiet, sharing, world with no bad things, harmony, aware of other people (OV)
- Happiness, world peace, quiet, non-violence, happy (RE)
- Sleepy, loving, tranquillity, hippies, people shaking hands, no wars, tree museum, animals, think opposite of people fighting, little white dove with olive branch (MONT1)
- No fighting, happiness, PM control it all, doves, halo (MONT2)
- Happiness, caring, no war, love and joy, enjoyment, relaxation, no violence, nuclear disarmament, patience, a better world (TT).
Q. What does peace look like? What do you see in your mind?
- Happiness, birds singing, see your favourite things, fun – playing, water, dog barking, love, families, dream (having), giving flowers out (OV)
- Peace clown, people being kind, 60’s, every one together, hippy sign, yin and yang (OV)
- No war, no bad sickness, everyone eating instead of starving, everybody in houses and food, I don’t like it when people don’t have houses and food, exciting (OV)
- Yin and yang, peace symbol, restaurant (going to), holiday, cemetery, sleep (RE)
- Colourful fumes pink smoke, botanic gardens, people working together, violence rising multi-coloured rainbow, rose coloured glasses, happy Yani always, X-box – violent video games (just a game), opposite of peace is violence, next generation thinks violence is good, paddock – grass (MONT1)
- Nice to each other, kind, world in shape as peace sign, working together, smiling, shaking hands, hot – yin and yang (MONT2)
- Happy, good, relaxing, fun, calm, being a good one, safe (TT).
Q. How do you feel when left out of the group?
- Bad, no-one likes me, alone, left out, they are using you, angry and unhappy, upset, bash their heads, nobody cares, no-one cares, don’t exist, small, no-one likes you, good things, lollies – everyone comes to you, sad (OV)
- Unhappy, sad, upset, lonely, angry, a loner, loser, believed that your not as good (OV)
- Left out – bored, lonely, why not let me in the group, use you, I’ll let you in my group if…, hurt, upset, never be put in, left out for the rest of your life, heart beats, led to believe they are your friends, spiteful – take the other people in, no friends (OV)
- Sad, angry, excluded, alone, made, upset, disappointed, not invited
- If left out what should you do: ask them if they want to play, comfort them – talk, go play with someone else (RE)
- Sad, depressed, disappointed, angry, revenge, ah big deal go to someone else, make your own group (revenge (angry), disappointed – if don’t want to do then happy, different (not accepted), not good enough, not as high as them (MONT)
- Sad, angry, bullied, lonely, ashamed, guilty, no-one is your friend, upset, loser, betrayed, loner (MONT).
Q. How do you feel when you are being picked on (bullied)?
- Bossed around, cry, annoyed, sad (OV)
- Upset, scared, angry, frightened, frustrated (OV)
- Sad, mad, bash, bad (RES)
- Angry, upset, scared, picked on, defensive, defenceless, rude person (MONT)
- Embarrassed, scared, put down, threatened, frightened, annoyed, upset, humiliated, frustrated, not safe (MONT2)
- Sad, not happy, passive – weak, confused, angry, hopeless (TT)
Q. Why does a bully pick on people?
- Express anger, make other weak – bigger, power, copying parents, be like them – jealousy, kick, upper class – bullied before, no lunch money (MONT4-5-6)
Q. What is violence?
- Killing someone, swearing, fighting (OV4)
- Killing, fighting, swearing (OV)
- People hurting each other, scary things, swearing, scaring you, fighting, spitting, punching, kicking (OV)
- Hurting people, swearing, fighting, killing, loss of blood (RE)
- Talk bad, scare people, swear, scary M.A. movies, fights, killing (RE)
- Physical hurting, video game halo- shoot aliens, Tinton in Congo dynamite in Rino’s but, weapons, war, hurting ducks, video Blood Rayne – empire against Nazi’s (MONT1)
- Knife, teasing, killing, guts and guns, bullying (MONT2)
- Fighting, guns – shooting, weapons, war, physical activity – boxing, swearing, threatening, abuse (TT)
Q. What do you think or feel when you see people hurting each other on T.V. (what about news)
- Not good, grow up and do same things. Simpsons Homer choked Bart, little kids copy, stupid, sad, unhappy. (OV)
- Fun, made up, gives you the urge to do it- car, speed – wanted to speed, humorous, cool – surprise, through window, eye catching, dies – don’t expect, good – not something you see in everyday life (OV)
- Not good – country (Indonesia) kill people, stopping people, naughty – teaches kids to do it, copying TV. Like? Really funny Godzilla – funny, Water Boy – teasing (OV)
- Violence, fake, bad, smash TV don’t like it, bad, hurt – cuts in the eye, head butted (RE)
- Pretend, don’t think anything, little kids do it, depends e.g. Titanic real thing, Ned Kelly – killed for no reason, war – German’s evil, felt scared, sick (MONT1)
- Ouch, screams, scary, horror, unhappy, totally unfair. No – looks good, not real, pretend, don’t watch news, outside state, depends 9 violent turn it off, shocked, scared, sad (MONT2)
- Feel sorry, normal, not happening not real, excited – like fighting, laughing, shocked and ashamed about people in community, scared and worried, nightmares (TT).
Q. Do you know what ‘nonviolence’ means?
- No fighting or swearing, no violence, kind person, businessman, pommy don’t like fighting (OV)
- Rated G, no swearing, punching, no fighting, kids can watch, doesn’t set a bad example (OV)
- No bad things, not teasing, fighting or being mean, movie – say swearing or violence not much violence (OV)
- No violence, no fighting, no killing, no guns, no punching (RE)
- No swear, playing nicely, no killing, respect others, playing by the rules, no punching (RE)
- No shoot up, guts, knives, war, peace – opposite to war, not normal, boring, everything the same, world not balanced, weird, no fear, have to have fear – sense of reality, unrealistic (MONT1)
- Not violence, caring, sharing, understanding, loving, no contact, happiness (MONT2)
- Kiddie games, girly types, whoosy, sissy, no swearing, happy, adventure, not using hands or legs, comes together and figure out situations (TT).
Q. What is strong?
- Walk away (OV)
- Weights, muscles, tough – macho, love – nothing can break it up, people – Olympics (OV)
- Crush Bandicoot – apples, muscles, power over self, confidence (RE)
- Strong, stand up for your self, proud of yourself (RE)
- Honourable, effect on people strong e.g. war, softness in strong people, whiskey, love (MONT1)
- Power, overrule, able to do stuff – broke fence, believing in yourself, trusting (MONT1)
- Not believing in self, not emotionally strong, emotional, sadness, negativity (MONT2)
- Standing up, confidence, trying to stop, control bully (TT)
Q. What is weak?
- Fight back, not physically strong enough, don’t fight (OV)
- Not strong, no exercise, bullies make themselves look strong, no gym – lazy (OV)
- Smackdown – fake, tired, people who cry, sookies, no confidence (RE)
- Girls, let someone stand over, boys say girls are weak, men are stronger than women (RE)
- Hate, can’t stand up for yourself, beer – no alcohol, violence – physical thing, disability – weak walk into abuse, weak, innocent people (MONT)
- Stand small, don’t stand up, crying, sulk, sissy style – weak, slang, sooking, scared (TT)
Q. What is war?
- No time in the world, wasting time can do better stuff then killing, evil, end of the world, anger, people extremely scared, unhappy because people died, sad, dying, people to scared to come out of homes, think it is a movie but its real, pain (OV)
- Killing, fighting, opposite of peace, hurting, hate, guns, bombs, pain, explosions, angriness, machines, blood, confusion (OV)
- Hatred, unhappy, sad, killing people, battle grounds, fighting, tanks and machines, feel sorry for people dying people go out with guns, killing, people die, after go to ceremony, who went to war go to cemetery to remember (OV)
- Fighting, violence, killing people, people dying, gunshots, bombs, scared if you die, painful, take lives to fight for them, torturing, weapons – nuclear, commit suicide (terrorists) (RE)
- Deadly, death, shooting, guns, bombs, Osama Bin Laden/ Saddam Hussein, planes into towers, childish – fighting over something started a fight, why, bad up bringing, blood staining a white flower and goes black and dies, building castles and raising armies, nuclear bomb (MONT1)
- Fighting, weapons, destructions, bombs, angry, PM not getting message across – greedy, freedom, peace, fighting for something, sadness, crying, tears, dying, finding themselves know it is inside them but can’t find (MONT2)
- Other people dying, no reason, fighting against another country, violence, non peace, not working together as a team, harming others, disagreement and arguments, we don’t have to kill, we are all people, enemy, hitting others put in others shoes, how you feel (TT) .
Q. Why do people have conflict or fight?
- Protect country, see who is strong, territory, revenge on someone else (country), challenge for something, so can see which countries better (OV)
- For land, revenge, to see who is better, have to (soldiers), terrorist, fun, their beliefs, no reason (OV)
- Protect country, don’t want people to tease their country, want to have more land, war to get more food, don’t need to – why not ask. Take over the people, mean, boss around, treat like slaves, conquer land, fight for dollars, fight for oil (OV)
- Save their country, take over, so we don’t get hurt, religion, unfair, feeling sad (RE)
- Different opinions, both want same things, people don’t talk through problems, way parents behave and think, copying, not being a community (MONT1)
- To get world peace, jealousy, money, revenge, oil, feel they have to , breakdown in relationships in other countries e.g. stop nuclear weapons, other right – not, Russia and US (MONT2)
- Hate each other, to win, want land, better place to live, fight to see who’s better, stronger, US, Iraq, revenge, to be justified, petrol – they need it, don’t let them, kill them (TT).