Silent Witnesses: Children’s Experiences of Community Violence

This post was contributed by Edward D. Barker, PhD and Natasha Z. Kirkham, PhD from Birkbeck’s Department of Psychological Sciences.

High poverty neighbourhoods are rife with high rates of violence and crime. Scientific research shows that, in certain neighbourhoods, there exists a “subculture of violence”, where a person’s reputation is based on his or her ability to use aggression to solve disagreements with others. Against this backdrop, children have increased potential to behave aggressively, as these children not only experience violence in the community and schools, but also often do not have adults with whom they can discuss victimization experiences. Importantly, within high poverty neighbourhoods, children (on average) receive less supervision from parents, and hence are more exposed to violence and behave more violently. Informing parents of the role they can play in supervising children is a critical first step in raising community awareness of children’s safety and wellbeing. Yet, to our knowledge, little research exists in which children’s experiences of violence, in schools and communities, are recorded via interviews with children – and importantly, the roles that adult care-givers have played in protecting children against such experiences

In the project named, “Silent Witnesses”, a collaboration between Birkbeck, the Theatre Centre, and Actorshop Limited, we will interview a group of high poverty inner city primary school children accross the UK. The children will discuss their community violence experiences. These discussions will be used to create a bespoke theatrical production, which will be shown to parents, teachers and children at targeted primary schools.  The parents will receive pre-play and post-play evaluations of their attitudes towards aggression with respect to children. A documentary will track the full duration of the project – from the child interviews, the final production, and the responses of the teachers, parents, and children.

Updates about this project will be published on this blog.

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