To determine how preadolescent urban children conceptualize and experience violence in their lives.
This qualitative study reports the results of focus groups designed to examine perceptions of violence among preadolescent urban children. Program directors were trained to conduct the sessions using a semistructured script. All groups were audiotaped or videotaped. The summaries were analyzed for recurring themes.
A community-based visual arts program for children designed to be a secondary violence-prevention program.
There were 12 focus groups of volunteer participants. Each consisted of 3 to 6 children aged 8 to 12 years, separated by sex and age. Fifty children participated: 27 boys and 23 girls.
These children defined violence in a broader way than most adults would. Not only did the children identify shootings and stabbings as examples of violence, but they also considered violence to be any act that might hurt someone's feelings (such as cheating and lying) or any act accompanying violence (such as cursing and yelling). The boys and girls were very similar in their views except regarding the issue of intimate-partner violence. The girls were almost universally concerned about this issue, but the boys seemed noticeably unaware that intimate-partner violence was considered a form of violence. Most children felt safe at home, and almost no child felt safe at school. They looked to trusted adults to keep them safe.
Future investigators measuring the effect of violence-prevention activities on preteen children should be aware that their definition of violence may differ from that of young children and should be cognizant of potential sex differences, especially around the topic of intimate-partner violence. Those designing violence-prevention programs for children should consider engaging adult family members as well because children usually turn to them for safety.