When parents demean and strike each other or their children, when children are encouraged to be bullies or fight back on the playground, when children have easy access to real or toy guns or other weapons, violence is being taught.1 When stereotypes and prejudice frame interactions with people who are different from ourselves, the scene is set for violence.
Glorifying war and relishing violence in competitive sports may reinforce violent behavior. Several decades of research has documented that violence in television, film, and other mass media is one way in which the culture teaches violence. When violence and sexual aggression are combined in the media, in popular song, in multimedia computer games, and in the vernacular, the message of violence, including sexual assault, is reinforced.2 Persons who have learned to resolve conflict by physical violence may continue to do so, so thus modeling for their children that violent behavior is appropriate when one feels justified that his or her opinion should prevail.
It is often difficult for well-intentioned parents of older children and teenagers to overcome the violent messages that are being taught by their peers and larger society. In homes where there is no violence, people treat each other in a kinder and more pleasant way. In a practical sense, this means that changing the communication patterns in families to convey more positive messages and affirm what each person does right is a step toward violence prevention.
1 “If Violence is Learned Behavior, Who Teaches It?” American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, Issue 2, 1998.