Impact of Social Violence on Children.

October 29, 1996
Submitted by Claudette PJ. Crawford-Brown,
Lecturer, Dept of Sociology & Social Work, UWI.,President of the Jamaica Association of Social Workers,

Topic: Interventions/Strategies to deal with the Emotional and Psychological Impact of Social Violence on Children.

In recent years the nature and characteristics of social violence in Jamaican society has changed somewhat and has gradually begun to claim the lives of the most vulnerable members of the society, namely our women, children and our elderly. This pattern of social behaviour has largely passed unnoticed by most members of our society many of whom have been numbed by the increasing levels of crime and violence. However it has serious implications for the very survival of our society as we know it.

To some extent when we view some aspects of the violence, we have to regrettably conclude that indeed we might have to write off a whole generation of chidden/youth (A point made by Moderator Thwaites in our discussion last week); but we can act now to save the next generation. HOW?

In a paper presented in Rochester New York last April and at JASW Conference on children in May, CC Brown set out the basics of HOW.

In a paper presented in Rochester New York last April and at JASW Conference on The Social Status of theJamaican child in May 1996, CC Brown set out some of the basics of HOW.

1. Develop a system of early warning/detection for children with emotional and behavioural problems within the present educational system.

2. Strengthen community-based initiatives which focus on the establishment of play-grounds for children and youth, using corporate sponsorship and foundation funds where possible. The use of voluntary community care for the children must be built in so that older children and young adults learn to care for the younger.

3. Research to examine the impact of violence on children,and their families to enable effective intervention at an early stage.

4. Long-term research on the perpetrators of some of the more uncharacteristic crimes(eg. Killers of children) to determine associations between family/social history as predictors of what could be considered ultra-deviant behaviour (deviance from deviance).

Re: Announcement from Ministries re placement of Psychologists to work with troubled children in violent communities.

Recently (within the last two weeks) the Ministries of Education and Health made statements that psychologists were being assigned to work with traumatized children in specific areas recently. Commendable initiative but the work of psychologists must be supported by a range of services from other professionals and paraprofessionals (namely social workers, guidance counsellors, community paraprofessionals etc) if their work is to be effective.The fact is that the present situation demands a much more comprehensive approach if we are to really address the needs of these children and all the other children whose emotional needs are not being addressed by the present educational and child welfare system.

Proposal for this more comprehensive approach.

Need for an institutionalized system of early detection of children with emotional and behavioural problems. Making use of existing facilities of the new and still underutilized Mico Counselling Centre, The UWI Child Health Clinic and the network of Child Guidance Clinics, teachers need to be supported in identifying children with e emotional and behavioural problems before they reach the stage of murder and overt violence. Children need to identified from the pre-school stage ideally and at least by elementary school age. In the same way that there is now a well established and institutionalized system for detecting early learning or physical problems , we need to institutionalize an early warning system for emotional and behavioral problems Such a system could also detect children with problems related to conduct disorders, suicidal ideation and depression etc. Long Before they get to the point of murdering each other or to the point of" killing babies".

This can be done with a collaborative effort of a multi-disciplinary team, using the few child psychologists and psychiatrists ( carefully placed), with the assistance of guidance counselors and social workers to do home visits and to work with parents and families.

We must sit down and develop a life plan that is effective and not just respond to the crisis of the moment.