Violence and Aggression

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Information about Violence and Aggression

Published on October 23, 2008

Author: aSGuest1735


Understanding Girls’ Pathways to Violence and Aggression : Understanding Girls’ Pathways to Violence and Aggression Lisa Pasko University of Denver This presentation: : This presentation: Scope of girls’ violent offending Theoretical explanations for violence Pathways to girls’ aggression Conclusions/programming Girls’ arrests for violent offenses: : Girls’ arrests for violent offenses: Person offenses of girls in residential placement, United States, 1997-2001 : Person offenses of girls in residential placement, United States, 1997-2001 Overall: : Overall: Girls’ arrests for simple assaults have gone up by nearly 1/5 over the past ten years, while boys’ arrests have gone down. Girls’ commitments for simple assault have gone up by 40%. Theorizing girls’ violence: : Theorizing girls’ violence: Biology/psychology: Prefrontal dysfunction: Traumatic brain injuries Chronic childhood stress Maternal substance abuse and trauma during pregnancy Low levels of serotonin lead to impulsivity and aggression Internalizing/externalizing strain/stress Theorizing girls’ violence: : Theorizing girls’ violence: Environment Exposure to violence/victimization “Hard wiring of the brain” due to constant exposure to violence Negative emotionality (no consistent response from care givers) Impulsiveness Sensation seeking (need extreme emotions) Violence as survival strategy Violence highest among groups: : Violence highest among groups: Who do not believe in a legal system to protect them Who do not involve formal authority in order to handle disputes Who experience high concentrations of poverty Who use violence as a means of gaining honor, respect, and status Girls in the gang/on the street: part of this subculture of violence, but in a different way. “Girl” world: : “Girl” world: Girl fighting: meanness as relational aggression In/exclusion dominate peer interaction Sarcasm, ridicule, gossip, name-calling, silent treatment Cultural images (TV, magazines) reinforce this girl world: the focus on body image, sexuality, popularity, and meanness. Female empowerment equates aggression and a willingness to fight. This form of bullying can lead some girls to avoid school and on pathway to “street life.” Understanding girls’ violent offending: : Understanding girls’ violent offending: Pathways perspective to girls’ violence This approach attempts to determine life experiences, particularly childhood ones, that place one at risk of violent offending. Overall, girls’ pathways to delinquency: : Overall, girls’ pathways to delinquency: Girls are more likely than boys to come from fragmented families, to have chemically dependent and/or criminally involved parents, and to suffer from sexual and physical abuse in their homes. These experiences precipitate running away (their escape strategy) and increase exposure to criminal opportunities and sexual victimization on the streets. Overall, girls’ pathways: : Overall, girls’ pathways: In particular, sexual abuse affects girls' ability to form attachment bonds needed to deter delinquency and anti-social behavior. It increases the likelihood of depression, suicide attempts, problematic substance use, self injury, violence, eating disorders, delinquent peer groups, and risky lifestyles. Overall, girls’ pathways: : Overall, girls’ pathways: School forms yet another atmosphere of oppression and alienation for many female juvenile offenders. Several studies have shown that girl offenders have high rates of truancy, suspensions for nonattendance, and overall low school attachment. For the most part: : For the most part: When girls commit crime, they often do it for instrumental reasons (running away, shoplifting). They rarely risk physical injury. In comparison to boys, they infrequently engage in violent one on one competition. When considering the rise in girls’ assaults, it is equally important to note changes in law enforcement and school policies and procedures. Research study: : Research study: Data drawn from a quasi-random sample of 112 case files of girls who had been on probation during 2004 calendar year. Data also enhanced by focus groups with girl probationers and probation officers. Average age was 15.5. First juvenile court referral: Girls with a history of violence (n=71): 34% were referred for a violent offense (second: 32% were referred for running away) Girls without a record of violence (n=41): 46% referred for running away (second: 24% for theft) Differences between violent and nonviolent female juvenile offenders: : Differences between violent and nonviolent female juvenile offenders: Violent girls are twice as likely to claim gang involvement as are girls with no history of violence. 89% of girls who reported using violence have an assault arrest in their record. Of those girls arrested for assault, 67% have also been arrested for a property offense and 15% have been arrested for drug offenses. Mental health/medical factors: : Mental health/medical factors: 44% of nonviolent girls have had treatment for mental health issues before probation, with nearly 75% having access to health insurance and early childhood health care. Only 26% of violent girls have had some form of mental health treatment prior to probation (usually for suicide attempt); less than 40% had health insurance/childhood health care at any point during their lives. However, 56% of violent girls had at least one recorded suicide attempt in their records, as opposed to 50% of nonviolent girls, and violent girls reported four times as many medical problems (notably, STDs, asthma and stomach problems). Family factors: : Family factors: 2/3 of violent girls have been exposed to domestic violence, as opposed to 46% of nonviolent girls. Violent girls are 25% more likely than nonviolent girls to have experienced physical abuse. Sex abuse (overall, 2 out of 5 report sexual abuse): Nonviolent girls: dad/stepdad, brother, uncle, and boyfriend are common perpetrators Violent girls: more likely to be assaulted by a stranger, person in authority, or mom’s boyfriend. They are also more likely to have had more than one perpetrator. Family factors: : Family factors: Violent girls also have more records of: Witnessing the death of a significant other (20% of violent girls versus 12% of nonviolent) Having a parent in prison (66% versus 47%) Having a parent who uses drugs or alcohol (68% versus 58%) Having no contact with their father (60% versus 48%) Experiencing childhood neglect (31% versus 19%) Sexual behavior: : Sexual behavior: All of the girls in the sample who had been arrested for prostitution also had arrests for assaults. However, nonviolent girls (44%) had more records of running away to an older boyfriend (37%) (at least ten years their senior). Of these 37% of violent girls who said they had an “older boyfriend,” 80% also said they could consider him a pimp. School factors: : School factors: 2/3 of both violent and nonviolent girls had failed at least one semester. For violent girls, their failure began at an earlier age (elementary versus middle-school). Violent girls are more likely to be assessed as needing special education. Alcohol: : Alcohol: Alcohol: Both nonviolent (85%) and violent (76%) girls reported using alcohol at some point before probation. Violent girls reported frequent and episodic use while nonviolent girls reported experimental and episodic drinking. Crystal methamphetamine: : Crystal methamphetamine: 42% of violent girls had tried crystal methamphetamine. Of that 42%, 68% report frequent use. (average age first tried: 13.1) 55% of nonviolent girls reported ever trying meth. Of that 55%, 55% also reported frequent use. (average age first tried 14.2) Marijuana: : Marijuana: 68% (n=48) of violent girls and 82% (n=34) of nonviolent girls report trying marijuana in their lifetimes. Average age of first use for both: 12.5. 44% of violent girls report frequent marijuana use, versus 25% of nonviolent girls. Whom are girls assaulting? : Whom are girls assaulting? Number parent (mother) 19 female peer 24 male peer 3 staff/teacher 8 stranger 1 siblings 8 police 1 grandparent 1 Girls direct violence primarily at: : Girls direct violence primarily at: Other girls Mothers, women in authority (staff, teachers) Other intimates (siblings) Reasons: “gender loathing,” resentful of those who could have saved them for abuse, hit hardest against those they feel betrayed trust Three “key” starting points: : Three “key” starting points: *Grade school (age 11 and younger) (serious, repetitive violence, on-going street survival, anti-social) Failing out of school at an early age Limited resources (no health insurance) Empty and/or violent families Middle school-early high school (age 12-15) (propensity for aggressive romantic relationships) Bullied, truant, low level delinquency High school (age 15) (group-influenced violence) Violence performed in groups, rarely chronic but potentially severe Lethal violence and girls: : Lethal violence and girls: Tammy Damm (mother, boyfriend-assisted) Kelly Ellard (girlfighting) Ashley Rios (gang) Girls who kill: : Girls who kill: The rate of girls who commit murder in the U.S. is higher than that of other countries, e.g., Japan and Austria. Usually suffer from overt depression Likely kill in the context of a relationship Often kill in concert with a male perpetrator Those who kill alone resemble the violent male teenager who kills alone Summary: : Summary: To understand the “rise” to girls’ violence, one must look at changes in girls’ worlds, cultural representations, as well as formal justice statistics. Must consider all factors playing into her violence: biology, psychology, and environment. The violent female juvenile offender: Less access to early medical and mental health care More frequent drug use More gang involvement Risky sexual behavior More likely to have a parent who uses drugs, is in prison, or is absent Responding to girls’ violence : Responding to girls’ violence Girls’ programs must provide a respectful and safe forum for girls to openly discuss their experiences with abuse, victimization, and personal safety issues. It must provide an acceptable space for girls to explore their physicality. For the girl offender, programming also needs to create services that assist girls in living independently; building career and work options; experiencing more visible avenues to power and control; reducing harmful girlfighting and embracing meaningful friendships with other girls. Early childhood medical and mental health care is of key importance. For more information or a copy of the presentation: : For more information or a copy of the presentation: Lisa Pasko 2000 E. Asbury Ave., Sturm Hall 446 Department of Sociology and Criminology University of Denver Denver CO 80208 303.871.2049

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