Violence has been a constant element threading throughout the history of humankind. Perhaps violent behavior is our given plight, to be grappled with for the duration of our existence. Our proposed Grand Challenge is to mitigate the influence of the existing “culture of violence” on the next generation by creating a dramatic shift in attitudes, beliefs and behaviors toward a “culture of peace” in our families and communities.
Many people carry a sense of global crisis in regard to violence that is social, political, economic and environmental in its reach. Yet, a more proximate concern is violence in families, which according to police statistics represents approximately 33% of all violence in the United States (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005). Children are overrepresented as victims of family-based violence with prevalent atrocities ranging from murder to neglect (“Statics On Abuse”, n.d.). The crisis grows worse every day as neurobiological research reveals how protracted childhood abuse and neglect can cause pervasive, and lasting biological and psychological harm. Moreover, recent longitudinal studies indicate that exposure to aggressive tendencies displayed during an early stage of development can be a precursor to adolescent and adult violence, thus continuing the cycle of violence through generations (Wahl & Metzner 2011).
The total direct and indirect costs of the effects of child abuse amount to billions of dollars, making it the largest single public health issue in America (Edelman 2008). These costs include hospitalization, increased health care costs, child welfare services, law enforcement, special education, juvenile and criminal justice system and lost productivity (Edelman 2008). Given our advanced understanding of the precursors of violence (Center for Disease Control [CDC], n.d.) and our increasingly effective public health models, we can surely subdue the base force of violence on our homes, communities and nation.
Thus, we propose to change the societal norm regarding family violence by creating an infrastructure that supports a “peaceful parenting” model, promoting violence-free homes and communities. A relational model of practice will stimulate collaboration among schools, service providers, law enforcement, universities, governments, media, business, and the public at large. Such collaboration will encourage innovation, foster open communication and will be grounded in a spirit of inquiry that assumes a shared commitment to ending violence in culturally relevant ways.
Implementation will employ a proactive multicomponent intervention, which consists of a three-pronged approach: education, community development, and social services (Funk, 2003). It will begin with community-driven assessment focused on the challenge of violence in communities. This will be followed by capacity building, aimed at mobilization and collaboration among stakeholders. For guidance, we can look to successful past efforts at changing societal attitudes and norms, such as the anti-smoking campaigns that began in the 1950s and the annual family day promotions. The resulting logic model will include short, intermediate and long-term plans. The end result will be a comprehensive, sustained effort to educate and support healthy families, enabling them to live violence free. Ideally, this initiative will lead to replication and movement toward policy development promoting a “culture of peace” nationally and globally.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Child maltreatment: Risk and protective factors. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/riskprotectivefactors.html
Edelman, M. W. (2008). The sea is so wide and my boat is so small: charting a course for the next generation. New York: Hyperion Books.
Funk, J., et al. (2003). The attitudes toward violence scale. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18, 186-196.
Statistics on Abuse. (n.d.). Statistics on abuse. Retrieved from http://home.earthlink.net/~elnunes/stats.htm
Tolan, P., Gorman-Smith, D., & Henry, D. (2006). Family violence. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 557-583.
U.S. Department of Justice. (2005). Family violence statistics: Including statistics on strangers and acquaintances (NCJ Publication number 207846). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Wahl, K., & Metzner, C. (2012). Parental influences on the prevalence and development of child aggressiveness. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 344-355.