Children and violence

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 28:  Young girls embrace o...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

News shows have debated the story of Derrion Albert, whose violent death at the hands (and feet) of fellow students was captured on a video seen round the world.  Senior Obama administration officials went to Chicago to talk with school and community leaders and offer money for programs that might help stem violence and gang activity in Chicago’s high schools.

On the same day, research funded by the Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies revealed just how much violence children are exposed even before they reach adulthood.  As reported in Science Daily, violence is a frequent part of children’s lives:

  • three out of five were exposed to violence, abuse or a criminal victimization in the last year
  • 46 percent had been physically assaulted
  • more than a third of the children had had two or more different kinds of exposures in the past year
  • 11 percent had five or more different kinds of exposures to violence in the past year

Help and protect. There are two important conclusions one can draw from the results of this research.  The first was mentioned by the lead researcher:  “Studies have missed the fact that there are a surprisingly large group of repeatedly and variously victimized kids whom we should be doing a better job to help and protect,” Finkelhor said.”

The second conclusion that we have to consider is the impact of adult violence on children. It has been known for decades that children who are beaten or abused are more likely to grow up to be similarly abusive.  Young people experience not only the real-world episodes of violence that they described, but the dozens or hundreds of fights, battles to the death and the like on television.

Our violence becomes their violence. We know, if we honestly seek out the research, just how influential viewing violence and participating in violent video games can be.  Yet, in the interest of freedom of speech and expression – the expression of adults – we introduce children to violence in the media at a very early age.  We cannot find a way to make the obvious decision: that adults need to restrain their participation in a number of violence-promoting activities, in order that children can grow up free to learn to develop and express their true personalities.

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