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Program
 

74th Annual Summer Conference, August 4–7, 2005

 
Socialization and Force from the Kitchen to the Screen

Summary by Paul Dhillon

Richard Tremblay
Professor of Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Psychology at the University of Montreal and Director of the Research Unit on Children’s Psycho-Social Maladjustment

Dr. Tremblay began by speaking of his three years spent working on rehabilitation of adults in a penal institution before moving to work with juvenile delinquents. His research had found that during adolescence and late adulthood physical aggression is most common. A number of studies from Europe were shown that supported his “age crime curve,” where criminal activity increases with adolescence and peaks and drops in adulthood.

“Modern psychological perspectives emphasize that aggressive and violent behaviors are a learned response to frustration. They can also be learned as instruments for achieving goals, and the learning occurs by observing models of such behaviours in the family, among peers, and elsewhere in the neighbourhood through the mass media.”

Research was displayed on a graph that broke down levels of physical aggression that illustrated that no group of children who display high levels of physical aggression at a young age increase their level of physical aggression as they age.

“He who considers things in their first growth and origin…will obtain the clearest view of them” (Aristole, Politics, Book 1 chap 2)

In infants, most of the physical aggression is for the control and possession of objects. He went to say that “Walking liberates your hands” and allows for more physical aggression.

The peak age for frequency of physical aggression is between ages 2 and 4 and there are important differences between males and females; males use physical aggression much more. Physical aggression rates decrease with age but some use more physical aggression than others. The same children who are at the peak of the age–crime curve are the ones who, during adolescence, create the increase in physical aggression.

“Humans do not learn to aggress. They learn not to aggress.”

Dr. Trembly stated that prevention of violence should be concentrated in early childhood.

“War is the natural state of man” (Hobbes, 1647)

Dr. Tremblay concluded with the comment that “we need to constantly work very hard at creating peaceful social interactions among all humans.”

Dr. Debra Pepler
LaMarsh Centre for R/S on Violence and Conflict

Dr. Pepler began by emphasizing the central role of the family in socializing children. The family provides children with the social skills they need.

What is the role in the peer group when aggression is reinforced or exacerbated?

Dr. Pepler gave a definition of bullying as the repeated use of aggression from a position of power to cause distress to another person. She believes that bullying is a relationship problem: the child who is the bully learns how effective it is to use power and aggression and the bullied child becomes trapped in a relationship that he or she cannot get out of. When looking at bullying as a relationship issue it must be dealt with as a relationship issue; isolating the child does not function to solve the issues – work must done to build relationship capacity.

Dr. Pepler spoke about research that found that children who persistently use violence and aggression are more likely to be physical aggressive in young adulthood. How do children establish these patterns of behavior?

  • Socialization experiences
  • The context in which children grow and play
  • The important role of the peer group to mitigate or promote aggressive behaviours

Dr. Pepler then showed a short clip of a group of Grade 5 boys on a playground who were engaging in aggressive behavior.

Bullying is a social event – there is an audience that acts as reinforcement for the action. The audience will engage in the abuse by joining the action in some way, and is not there “not doing anything.” This audience changes the dynamics of the bullying by providing the context to which the aggression can occur.

Juvenile delinquency is most often a group act. Individual delinquency is much more rare without associated peer pressure.

In many cases the motivation for bullying or remaining in a group as the bullied child is the need to “belong” to a group. The group can be the catalyst for the bullying.

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

Children and adolescents are reliant on adults to help them find their moral compass.

Dr. Pepler also spoke of the need for social architecture and the need for some groups of adolescents not to be promoted and about the integration of aggressive children into more positive peer groups.

Dr. Pepler concluded by postulating a number of question one of which was, “Is it the case that similar dynamics of power play out in terrorism cells/groups.”

Mulugeta Abai
Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture

Mr. Abai began with a brief talk about the networks he is involved with and his work with the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture. In 1977, the CCVT was established (the second centre in the world).

The foundation matrix of all of us is families, networks, and communities.

What happens when organized violence destroys the individual?

Mr. Abai regards the medical model as completely outmoded for victims of torture. What is needed is an “approach that creates a dialogue between the survivor and the professionals.”

Torture and violence is an assault on not only the individual but also on the family and the community at large.

There are three levels of social life according to Mr. Abai:

  1. Family – habitual patterns of action
  2. Networks – further patterns of interactions and communications and forms a part of the individual’s identity
  3. Communities – established patterns of communication

The personality of someone is changed post-torture. The family is fragmented and other family members don’t understand the changes that the person who underwent torture is undergoing mentally.

Torture is used to silence the community by silencing the individual (detention of the person, for example).

The main foundation block is the community and the CCVT works to:

  1. Validate their experience (not to interrogate)
  2. Small group development

He concluded by placing emphasis on the importance of rebuilding communities.