Sunday, December 16, 2007

Violence in Children

A Psychological Viewpoint

Two school children in Gurgoan take one of their Dad's gun and shoots a student from the same school who has been humiliating them.There is a public outcry.Violence is on the rise.Too much violence shown in the media,even glorified in films and TV which are affecting children.Media only reflects society.people at large resort to violence because it pays especially when they can get away with it thanks to their nexus with politics and law enforcing agencies.These are the substance of public furor whenever the act of violence is reported.How far are they born by facts?

There is of course a definite increase in the reported incidence of violence over the periods, yet, it is more often due to the fact that it is increasingly more noticeable now than before thanks to the closely knit world and effective media of today.The evidence on the media impact on violence is also not unequivocal or at least more complex than popularly assumed.The criminalisation of politics and the use of violence to achieve the ends is all there to see which has a strong bearing on the minds of children,leading them to indulge in violence, but who cares? Media of course can not be blamed.

Frustration-Aggression hypothesis, an outcome of one of the earliest work in Psychology of violence, states that aggression is the immediate reaction to frustration; the frustration in the gratification of needs such as hunger,sex,belongingness,love,esteem and self-expression.As the move towards the goal for the satisfaction is blocked, the immediate reaction to that barrier is 'flight' or 'fight' (escape or attack) and who takes to flight and who takes to fight is an interesting analysis by itself in the development of Personality meriting consideration separately.The outcome to these reactions will determine the further course in the development of aggressive behavior. The 'normal' person is the one who sees or made to see by people in the environment, the futility of these reaction in the long-term satisfaction of one's needs.

The psychoanalyst would say that it is the poor development of the Superego ( conscience and ego-ideals,social mores and values ) owing to inadequate and improper parenting thereby resulting in the urge for immediate gratification rather than a delayed one.This is also a deficit in the socialisation process of the child.People who are vulnerable to violence have low frustration tolerance or tolerance of uncertainty and have very little effective stress coping behavior.Violence depicted in the media may impact only such vulnerable children.

The Operant analysis of behaviour,another most influential work in Psychology,states that the consequence of behaviour shapes behaviour.When the behaviour is performed, or emitted as they say,what happens to that behaviour will determine whether it is strengthened or weakened.Consequences for our actions are always in the hands of people in the environment.When the temper tantrum thrown by the child will alone scurry the mother to turn around and feed him, throwing temper tantrum is strengthened and child will resort to it only when in need. When aggression alone fetches what one wants, one would retain aggression.

The 'Modeling Effect',an extension of Operant analysis of behaviour,demonstrates how behaviour is adopted by imitation and copying. behaviour of models/heroes in various situations in life seen in films or real life is copied by the child especially those which have yielded desired results.As the Sanskrit saying goes 'yatha raja tatha praja',as the king so the citizen.Bhagavadgita puts it even more tellingly:

Yadyadacharati shreshtaha tattadevetaro janaha / sa yatpramanam kurute lokastadanuvartate// Whatever a great man does is followed by others; whatever the standards he sets up, the world pursues it.

A society where aggression alone 'pays' immediately and handsomely and where the negative consequences of aggression is either not there or come rarely or sometimes after a long time, is no deterrent of violent behaviour.

The negative consequences for undesirable behaviour should be immediate,fairly consistent in time and should be resorted to by all concerned ( no dad-granny or law-politics difference there ).

At the same time, the desirable behaviour also needs to be reinforced immediately,consistently and by all concerned, so that options could be easily seen and adopted by the child.

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