Words Not Fists

Violence prevention may need to be targeted at specific demographic attitudes

(RxWiki News) Ever wonder why some kids fight and some kids don’t? There are exceptions to every rule, but parental attitudes towards physical violence plays a role in kid’s fighting behavior.

A recent study asked why some children fight while others walk away. Results suggest that kids learn a lot about fighting from their parent’s examples and beliefs.

"Talk to your kids about conflict resolution instead of fighting."

Rashmi Shetgiri MD., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and her team studied 65 teens from the Dallas Independent School District aged 13-17.

They were broken down into 12 groups of 4-8 kids based on race, gender, and whether or not they got into fights. The kids stated their reasons for fighting being: self-defense or defending of others, to earn or maintain respect, reaction to insults, displaced anger from other stressors, and for the girls—gossiping and jealousy.

The kids who were classified as non-fighters said they avoided fights by using their sense of humor to make jokes, totally ignoring the insults and/or walking away from aggressors.

Conflict resolution tactics, like using humor to diffuse the situation, are more likely to be used by teens that are afraid of disappointing their parents.

But, what if parents encourage fighting? Dr. Shetgiri’s study found racial and gender factors to play a major role in attitudes towards fighting. African American girls often receive messages from their female role models that aggression is acceptable.

White boys are also encouraged to fight by their male role models. On the other hand Latino boys reported fighting, unless in self-defense, embarrassed their families saying, “my dad says, ‘Why are you doing this to me? You’re making me look bad.’”

The conclusions of this study suggest that violence prevention could be most effectively approached with anger management and conflict resolution classes that tactically approach race specific attitudes towards fighting and may also need to involve both parents and kids.

The finding of this study were presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies on April 29, 2012. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
April 30, 2012