Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
Have you ever seen a violent newborn baby? I haven’t. No one is born violent in the sense of trying to harm others. So how does someone become violent? Psychologists and sociologists have conducted many studies over the years to try predicting violence without much success.
No way of understanding violence has been able to predict whether any given individual is about to become violent. Once a person displays violent behavior, it is clear that he or she is capable of violence and likely to be violent in the future.
But the question remains: Where does violence come from? Let’s look at some contributors to violence. One is the path your life takes. Your pattern of life experience can incline you toward acting violently, peacefully or somewhere in between. Dramatic events in your life can also steer you toward a peaceful life pattern or a violent one.
I refer here to violence done by an individual or group of individuals. A person may be influenced by what happens in his or her culture or peer group. Violence may be a group effort in which more than one person is responsible for the violence. Your being part of a group acting in a violent way can give you a reputation for violence whether or not you actually participate in the group’s actions. This is known as guilt by association.
Researchers have debated for years about whether violence or a tendency toward violence can be inherited. This debate continues and has yet to be settled despite years of research. Hormones appear to play a role. Testosterone is seen as a contributor to aggression, which may well account for the much greater number of male than female aggressors. Aggression is generally viewed as quite similar if not identical to violence.
Aggression might look similar but is not always intended to harm anyone. Remember that intent of harm is one of the parts of the definition of violence we discussed in the last chapter. Men tend to engage in more physical forms of aggression while women tend more toward verbal aggression although neither form is unique to one or the other gender.
Life circumstances and experiences while growing up appear to play a significant role in the violent tendencies and violent behavior of individuals. Here are a few developmental circumstances which can make a difference:
- Your treatment in your family
- Your family’s stability
- The safety of your neighborhood
- The adequacy of housing and food as you grew up
- How others react to your racial or ethnic background
- How you learn to react to threats
Other contributors beyond you developmental years and into adulthood include the following:
- Your feelings in response to physical danger
- How you think about yourself
- How you view other people
- How you see your life situation
- Your prospects for a satisfying life
- The adequacy of resources for managing your life