Bulletin #4425, Preventing Violence, Creating Peace

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Judith Graham Ph.D., Extension human development specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

For information about UMaine Extension programs and resources, visit extension.umaine.edu.
Find more of our publications and books at extension.umaine.edu/publications/.

sister hugs brotherTable of Contents

“The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than to win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.” 1

Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I was researching materials for this issue, reading and gathering resources, I became aware that preventing violence is not enough. In a sense, focusing only on preventing something from happening creates a void that calls out to be filled. And it keeps the focus on what is negative or not wanted. To create change, we must focus energy on the behaviors we do want, on the positive, on creating peace in relationships, homes and classrooms. In this fourth and final publication in our Family Issues series on violence, we will examine strategies for preventing violence as well as strategies and resources for creating peace.

Preventing Violence

Violence happens when someone hurts or threatens to hurt a person’s body, feelings, or things, even if the person is unaware of the threat.2

One approach used to develop violence prevention strategies is to identify underlying causes of violence.3 Identifying these causes is difficult, however, and is the source of many disagreements among experts in the field. Theories of causation include the following:4

  • Biological theory suggests that violence can be explained by genetics, biochemistry, or trauma-induced changes in brain development.
  • Individual psychopathology theory suggests that violence is caused by early childhood experiences that have resulted in individual psychopathology or dysfunctional personality structures.
  • Couple and family interactions theory suggests that family interactions or the family system form the foundation for violent behavior and that understanding an individual’s violence must take place within this family context.
  • Social learning and development theory suggests that violence is a “learned behavior that is modeled, rewarded, and supported by families and/or the broader culture.”
  • Societal structure theory suggests that underlying power imbalances in the society as a whole are a cause of violence.

These five theories are built upon some common premises:5

  • Violence has been ignored as a major social problem until recently, and remains poorly understood.
  • Violence is a complex problem affected by multiple variables.
  • Childhood trauma, either through exposure to violence or some other trauma, influences the likelihood of domestic violence.
  • As long as violence is condoned by public attitudes and institutions, there is little chance of preventing it.

A second approach used to develop prevention strategies divides them into three categories: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary prevention focuses on reducing the occurrences of a problem in a particular population group, and is typically based on the developmental readiness of the group. Primary prevention is meant to prevent problems by teaching effective relationship skills, thinking processes, and values that promote nonviolent relationships. All of the strategies in this newsletter for creating peace are examples of primary prevention strategies. Secondary prevention is focused on the individuals doing the violence and seeks to minimize or decrease the seriousness of the incidents. Programs in this category would include helping children deal with the effects of violence—on victims, perpetrators, and witnesses. Tertiary prevention seeks to alter the “course of a problem once it is already clearly evident and causing harm”; this tends to be less effective and more expensive than primary prevention.6

Two articles in this issue address violence prevention. The first is an excerpt from Reducing the Risks: Connections that Make a Difference in the Lives of Youth, which is based on data collected in the Add Health longitudinal survey of adolescents in grades 7 through 12. The second article is a brief overview of James Garbarino’s violence prevention strategies from his book Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. Two of the three short application pieces or teaching tools are from the Violence No More program in Biddeford, Maine. These are “Errors in Thinking” and “Long Term Strategies.”7 Both of these are about accountability for behaviors and changing thinking patterns that influence behaviors. The third application piece is titled “How We Violate Others’ Boundaries” and is meant to help raise awareness about the subtlety of violence.

Creating Peace

“True peace is not merely the absence of some negative force—tension, confusion or war; it is the presence of some positive force—justice, good will and brotherhood.”8

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Creating peace is not about avoiding conflict, but learning how to engage in conflict in effective and affirming ways. Strategies that create peace help to change thinking patterns and relational dynamics, and use conflict as a creative rather than divisive process. I particularly liked the concept of the “Conflict Escalator” used in the resources from Educators for Social Responsibility, and have included several short items on this concept. Also included in this issue is a particularly good list of agreements for group dialogues or classrooms and a thoughtful list of things parents can do to create and teach peace at home. This issue closes with an annotated resource section on peacemaking materials.

“A ratio of 4:1 is the minimum positive to negative comment ratio necessary for children to maintain existing emotional strength. A ratio of 12:1 is necessary for behavior improvement. When the ratio is 20:1 the home or classroom becomes a peaceful environment for all.”9

1 King, C. S., ed. (2001) The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. NY: Newmarket Press.
2 Remboldt, C., & Zimman, R. (1996). Respect and Protect: A Practical Step-by-Step Violence Prevention and Intervention Program For Schools and Communities. Minneapolis: Johnson Institute – QVS, Inc.
3 Wolf, D. A., & Jaffe, P. G. (2001). “Emerging strategies in the prevention of domestic violence.” Report of the National Council on Family Relations. Minneapolis, MN: National Council on Family Relations, F1. Abridged from The Future of Children, Vol. 9, No. 3. (1999), The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. (Complete article available at www.futureofchildren.org)
4 Ibid., F1-F2.
5 Ibid., F2.
6 Ibid.
7 Burgess, M., & Burgess, C. (2001). Violence No More Inc., Biddeford, ME 04005 vnm@int-usa.net
8 “Nonviolence and Racial Justice.” Christian Century. Feb. 6, 1957.
9 Bell, J. “A Twenty-five Year Participatory Research Report: How Much Praise is Enough?” Unpublished manuscript. Quoted in Janke, R. A., & Peterson, J. P. (1995). Peacemaker’s A, B, Cs for Young Children. Marine on St. Croix, MN: Growing Communities for Peace, 17.

Errors in Thinking: How Our Thinking Perpetuates and Supports Violence

  • Lying: making up things that are not true, or are partly true
  • Stacking the facts: telling the technical truth by saying it in a way that makes it seem that the other person is at fault or that she or he deserved what happened
  • Excuses: when confronted, giving excuses quickly
  • Shifting the focus: changing the subject, bringing up unrelated issues or issues about others
  • Assuming: that I am normal and that I am right
  • Keeping score: keeping a list of what others have done to me
  • Villainizing: making the other out to be mean, nasty or evil
  • Anger: expressed to control situations and used as an excuse for violence
  • Vagueness: not addressing issues directly, avoiding concerns
  • My way: entitled to have my own way
  • I’m trapped: using “self defense” as an excuse for getting even or for revenge
  • Power thrusting: when I feel bad about myself, I abuse others
  • Justifying: being sure to prove there was good reason for my action
  • Uniqueness: no one else has had this experience
  • I won’t change: to change seems like a personal failure or weakness
  • Making a fool of: class clown, keeping others waiting
  • Phoniness: cooperating to gain favor, manipulating others to be in debt to
  • Wanting it now: unwilling to wait, wanting instant response
  • Victim stance: using what others have done to me as an excuse for any kind of violence
  • Pity pot: avoiding issues by getting others to feel sorry for me
  • Getting back: seeking revenge to feel better
  • Why?: insisting on an explanation; acting confused, getting others to spend large amounts of time explaining their actions or opinions
  • Helpless: talking about depression, frustration, inability to function
  • Denial: “I didn’t do it”
  • Minimizing: “I didn’t do it that much”
  • Blaming: “it’s all because of . . . “
  • Avoidance: if I ignore the problem, it will go away
  • Their fault: blaming a third party for my situation and problems
  • Invincibility: nothing can get me
  • Dragging it out: keeping the fight going until the other gives up
  • All or nothing: not willing to discuss or negotiate

Source: Burgess, M., & Burgess, C. (2001). Violence No More Inc., Biddeford, ME 04005 vnm@int-usa.net

Long Term Strategies for Creating Nonviolent Relations

  • Take full responsibility for my violence in all its forms, consistently.
  • Avoid sidetracking, minimizing, blaming.
  • Respect wishes about the amount and form of contact with others.
  • Don’t try to change others’ minds.
  • Avoid rushing, giving ultimatums, or deadlines.
  • Maintain positive attitudes about situations.
  • Don’t attempt to get others to feel guilty about my situation.
  • Practice positive ”self talk.”
  • Stop feeling sorry for myself.
  • Focus on my own goals for self-change.
  • Actively listen.
  • Focus on my own problems.
  • Avoid any criticism or accusations, no matter how strongly I feel about them.
  • Develop a self-care plan.
  • Don’t expect instant results.
  • Stop trying to control others’ actions, thoughts or feelings.
  • Learn how violence affects others.
  • Recognize personal shortcomings.
  • Learn to accept uncomfortable feelings, without resorting to violence or self-destructive behavior.

Source: Burgess, M., & Burgess, C. (2001). Violence No More Inc., Biddeford, ME 04005  vnm@int-usa.net

How We Violate Others’ Boundaries

  • when we try to control, manipulate or make decisions for other people by cajoling, coercing, threatening, shaming or guilt-tripping them into doing something they don’t want to do;
  • when we speak for others (often the young, disabled, and the old, or with quiet or reserved people);
  • when we use others’ possessions without permission or fail to return borrowed items;
  • when we do not respect other people’s requests for emotional or physical space, or do not honor a person’s refusal or “no”;
  • by relentless questioning, badgering, and criticizing or not respecting others’ wishes to not talk about something;
  • by reading others’ private papers, letters, journals or prying into others’ drawers, purses, and briefcases;
  • when we touch people without asking;
  • by giving unwanted advice, telling people what’s best for them, as well as rescuing, enabling, and taking over others’ lives (these say to the other person, “you are not capable of handling your own life”);
  • when we violate people’s confidences by telling their private matters to others;
  • when we talk about others in front of them as if they were not there;
  • when we physically, sexually, emotionally or verbally abuse others.

Adapted from: Kristensen, N; (1993); “Ways we violate others’ boundaries;” Family Information Services, Minneapolis, MN; Used with permission.

Teaching Peace to Children at Home

  • Cultivate a good home life. Support one another. Learn to understand others by sharing feelings, information, and experiences. Encourage problem solving.
  • Join a parent support group.
  • Provide a good example. Show children that conflicts in the home and community can be handled peacefully; react to world violence with a sense of the validity of peace.
  • Help children experience forgiveness, by both giving it and accepting it.
  • Don’t buy war toys. They cast a romantic glow over the reality of war.
  • Avoid entertainment that glorifies violence. If/when children are exposed to it, discuss the difference between real-life violence and television violence.
  • Curb backyard fighting. Urge children to talk through problems and compromise.
  • De-emphasize possessions.
  • Tone down war expectancy. Don’t present it as inevitable.
  • Talk with children about war and peace.
  • Introduce games that stress cooperation rather than competition.
  • Tell stories of peace heroes.
  • Cultivate imagination. Ask children to put themselves in a leader’s place and try to find peaceable solutions to real life conflicts. Consider consequences.
  • Encourage autonomy. Give children the freedom to make some decisions on their own.
  • Emphasize the causes of violence. Provoking violence is violence itself.
  • Have an abundance of peace material at home—books, toys, games, pictures.
  • Cultivate friendships with other peaceable children.
  • View issues globally. Encourage children to view foreigners as neighbors, too.
  • Support projects that express concern—food pantry, shelters, church groups.
  • Act to support peace. Let your children see you politically active in the cause of peace.

Source: From Peachey, J. Lorne (1981). How to Teach Peace to Children. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press. Used with permission.

Lines of Defense: Recommendations of James Garbarino

The time to begin preventing youth violence is before a child is born. “The goal,” states James Garbarino, author of Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them, “is twofold: to prevent boys from coming into the world at a biological disadvantage and to prevent them from being maltreated by their parents.”1 Home health visits beginning in pregnancy and lasting for several years is a first line of defense, so that babies are born healthy and continue to grow in good health.

The second line of defense is parent education: programs that promote positive parenting practices and parent-child relationships. Research consistently illustrates a very strong relationship between parenting styles and the social competency of children. Parent education should start early, even prenatally. Programs like Parents as Teachers and Healthy Families America are sound developmentally and help to foster the social prospects of all children, but especially those at high risk because of temperamental difficulties.2 “If children are not handled expertly, odds are that the difficult ones will behave badly and will eventually be rejected by their parents. Rejection by parents and others is the primary route through which nonabused children develop Conduct Disorder . . . . When children are rejected, they begin to gravitate to antisocial peers, some of whom may have been rejected themselves or may be victims of maltreatment at home. We must always remember that it is impossible to understand a child out of context. A child’s development only makes sense in context, when peers and culture are taken into account.”3

Garbarino’s third line of defense is early intervention to deal with attachment-related problems, because so many children who become violent are “disconnected or detached from the earliest months and years of life.”4

Next are high-quality early childhood education programs—preschools, Head Start, nursery schools and child care. “These programs play a leading role in ensuring that boys are turned away from violence, because they improve intellectual development, which . . . contributes to resilience.”5

Violence prevention and reduction programs in schools and communities, starting in elementary schools, are the following line of defense. The reason? Because research is again showing that patterns of aggressive behavior and beliefs entrenched in children at the age of eight predict, without intervention, aggression in adulthood.6

Next is character education—programs that are based on a set of values that include trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. “Character education programs must provide concrete opportunities for kids to see the core values at work, alive in the minds and hearts of adults in their relationships with children and youth, and, most importantly, to see that they are valued in the context of the peer group . . . . The agenda for character education offers a vehicle both for strengthening children and for detoxifying the social environment.”7

The final line of defense includes teaching mediation, conflict resolution, and peer counseling in programs for kids in middle school and junior high. Kids keeping track of other kids is an important part of these programs, teaching peer and cultural responsibility. Equally important is the role of these programs “in linking kids to adults to validate the principle that kids who say troubling and troubled things need to receive adult help and should not be shielded by peers from adults.”8

1 Garbarino, J. (1999). Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. New York, NY: The Free Press, p. 182.
2 Ibid., pp. 184-186.
3 Ibid., p. 186.
4 Ibid., p. 187.
5 Ibid., p. 188.
6 Ibid., p. 191.
7 Ibid., pp. 194-195.
8 Ibid., pp. 196-197.

Project Peace

School Administrative District #6

Vision: Project Peace envisions a positive, respectful, and safe school environment in which all persons are valued for both their similarities and differences. We encourage attitudes and behaviors that build trust, acceptance, and peaceful interactions. We recognize that peace is planting a seed of kindness and watching it grow.

Juxtaposed against today’s recurring images of violence and hurtful actions, Project Peace stands as a beacon of hope in one community in Maine. The framework for Project Peace began evolving in the summer of 1994 when Rita Clifford lead five colleagues in developing a school-wide program to change the culture of Hollis School. Their dream was to create classroom lessons and whole school activities that would build trust, acceptance, and peaceful interactions.

Today Project Peace has grown into a highly respected district-wide program. In the spring of 1999, seven other elementary schools adopted the program, and each school has Project Peace Teams. The Project Peace curriculum has continued to change and grow as many of the eighty staff members trained have added their creativity to the lessons. Final revisions were made to the curriculum in the summer of 2001 and it was copyrighted in September.

Everyone in the school community is involved in encouraging students in the ways of peace. Bus drivers, cafeteria and playground monitors, secretaries and educational technicians have all been trained in what Project Peace is about. Overviews of the teachings have also been presented to the sixth grade teaching staff so they will know the skills the students bring with them as they enter Bonny Eagle Middle School.

The importance of involving parents and the community with the program is integral to its success. Parents receive letters about what students are learning; school newsletters and the district newspaper also highlight Project Peace.

Project Peace clearly affects the way students regard their school and the world around them, how they interact with their peers, and what they can do to give and expect from the school community. The impact of the program is demonstrated by the reduction in the number of instances of prohibited behaviors (violent speech, life threats) from 127 incidents to 18 incidents during the first two years of the program.

Hollis School is very interested in sharing Project Peace with other school districts, with the understanding that it will be adopted by the whole school. While there is no cost for the curriculum, schools would need to pay for training (1–2 days) and buy basic materials. For more information, please contact Rita Clifford, Project Peace MSAD #6, (207) 892-6136, rclifford@sad6.k12.me.us.


Project Peace will

  • build a more positive and respectful school environment;
  • recognize students as the focal point of the school community and support their active participation in creating a positive school environment;
  • increase student self-respect and appreciation of others;
  • teach students to include respect for self and others in their decision-making process;
  • develop an increased appreciation of sameness and differences among school citizens;
  • heighten student awareness of the impact of teasing and other negative behaviors;
  • teach students skills for responding to negative treatment from others and for solving conflicts peacefully.

Classroom Lessons:

Classroom lessons are taught in all K–5 classrooms, either by the regular classroom teacher or by members of the Project Peace Team. The curriculum consists of five core lessons and five follow-up lessons taught throughout the year. Lessons vary with each grade level but follow several common themes:

  • Learning behaviors that create a safe school climate; treating others with respect.
  • Appreciating our differences and acknowledging that not accepting the ways we are different can lead to stereotyping, prejudice, and mistreatment.
  • Recognizing teasing and bullying and discussing what we can do to prevent it.
  • Learning about strong emotions, the role anger plays in teasing and conflict, and how to handle anger appropriately.
  • Learning ways to solve problems peacefully, varying from sharing and taking turns to talking it out.

Classroom Peacemakers: The oldest students in the school are offered the opportunity to help teach Project Peace lessons as an important part of our attempt to make this an effort of students and teachers in partnership.

Peace Day: Each June, staff, students and community members participate in a day of activities and presentations in celebration of our peaceful actions.

We Violate Others’ Boundaries

  • when we try to control, manipulate or make decisions for other people by cajoling, coercing, threatening, shaming or guilt-tripping them into doing something they don’t want to do;
  • when we speak for others (often the young, disabled, and the old, or with quiet or reserved people);
  • when we use others’ possessions without permission or fail to return borrowed items;
  • when we do not respect other people’s requests for emotional or physical space, or do not honor a person’s refusal or “no”;
  • by relentless questioning, badgering, and criticizing or not respecting others’ wishes to not talk about something;
  • by reading others’ private papers, letters, journals or prying into others’ drawers, purses, and briefcases;
  • when we touch people without asking;
  • by giving unwanted advice, telling people what’s best for them, as well as rescuing, enabling, and taking over others’ lives (these say to the other person, “you are not capable of handling your own life”);
  • when we violate people’s confidences by telling their private matters to others;
  • when we talk about others in front of them as if they were not there;
  • when we physically, sexually, emotionally or verbally abuse others.

Adapted from: Kristensen, N; (1993); “Ways we violate others’ boundaries;” Family Information Services, Minneapolis, MN; Used with permission.

Conflict Escalator

Most of us know what an escalator is—the moving stairs that carry us between floors in a building. Using an escalator as a metaphor and visual tool for teaching about conflict is helpful. When a conflict gets worse, we say it escalates. All interactions start at the bottom of the escalator.

Going up the Conflict Escalator

  • Every behavior in a conflict is either a step up or a step down the conflict escalator.
  • Behavior that makes the conflict worse will take it up the escalator.
  • Every step up the conflict escalator has feelings that go with it. As the conflict escalates, so do the feelings.
  • The higher you go on the escalator, the harder it is to come down.

Coming Down the Conflict Escalator

C = Cool off

  • Deep breaths
  • Relax muscles
  • Positive self-talk
  • Count backwards
  • Leave

A = Agree to Work it Out

  • Don’t escalate further
  • Show willingness
  • “Let’s talk this out”

P = Point of View on the Problem

  • Each gives point of view
  • Use “I” statements
  • Use active listening

S = Solve the problem

  • Brainstorm solutions
  • Choose a win-win solution
  • Decide how to implement it

Reprinted with permission from Kreidler, W. (1997). Conflict Resolution in the Middle School. Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility, pp. 39, 51, 105. © 1994, 1997 Educators for Social Responsibility and William J. Kreidler. For more information go to Engaging Schools or call 800.370.2515.

Behaviors that Escalate Conflict

Bulldozing—Trying to “run over” and intimidate the other person by accusing, shouting, name-calling, swearing, threatening, taunting, and other kinds of aggressive behavior.

Conflict archeology—Bringing up past failures or wrongdoing that are not about the current conflict. This keeps people from focusing on the problem at hand.

Global statements—Using general words like “always,” “never,” and “every time” instead of being specific. Global statements usually start with the word “you.”

Counter attack—Attacking the other person’s personality instead of trying to solve the problem. Thinking of complaints to throw back instead of listening to the other person’s point of view.

Above it all—Acting above all this. Not listening or trying to solve the problem. Thinking, “it would be beneath me to deal with this petty little problem.”

Reducing the Risks: Connections that Make a Difference in the Lives of Youth

Numerous reports have documented the health status of youth in the United States, concluding that the main threats to adolescents’ health are health-risk behaviors and the choices they make. Data indicate that more than three of every four deaths in the second decade of life are social morbidities: unintentional injuries, homicides, and suicides. Juvenile homicide rates have escalated until recently, and suicide rates among adolescents aged 14 years or younger have increased by over 75% in the past decade.1

However, the factors that influence these risk behaviors and choices have been unclear. The Add Health study, completed in 1997, sheds some light on these factors. The findings indicate that adolescent health is influenced not only by the strengths and vulnerabilities of individual adolescents but also by the character of the settings in which they lead their lives. These settings—the schools they attend, the neighborhoods they call home, their families, and the friends who comprise their social world—play an important but still incompletely understood role in shaping adolescent health. They do so by influencing both how adolescents feel about themselves as well as the choices they make about behaviors that can affect their health and their future lives.

Measuring Health and Behaviors

The vast majority of adolescents have not thought about suicide nor attempted it. However, nine percent of youth report having suicidal thoughts but no attempts and just under four percent have attempted suicide. Girls are more than twice as likely as boys to have made a suicide attempt. Teens who live in the West and teens who report that their parents receive welfare are also more likely than other teens to have attempted suicide.

Over ten percent of males and over five percent of females report having committed a violent act in the past year. More younger than older teens report having been involved in violent activities. Urban teens, teens whose families receive welfare, and Native American teens appear more likely than other teens to be involved in violence. Additionally, 12.4 percent of students say they have carried a weapon to school in the past month.

The findings from the Add Health survey conclude that independent of race, ethnicity, family structure and poverty status, adolescents who are connected to their parents, to their families, and to their school community are healthier that those who are not.

Family Connections Make a Difference

The home environment makes a difference in the health of American youth. When teens feel connected to their families and when parents are involved in their children’s lives, teens are protected. Teens are also protected when they do not have access to guns, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs at home. Teens are protected by having parents who have high expectations for school performance and instill in their children a sense of belonging.

When teenagers feel connected to their families, they are less likely to experience emotional distress. Though not to the same extent, adolescents are also protected from emotional distress by their parents being physically present in the home at key times during the day (in the morning, after school, at dinner, and at bedtime), as well as by their parents’ high expectations for school performance. Feeling connected to parents and family significantly protects both younger and older adolescents from thinking about or attempting suicide. However, having a gun that is easily available at home is associated with increased suicide risk among older adolescents. Overall, 24.2 percent of all adolescents said that guns were easily accessible at home. Adolescents living in homes where there is easy access to guns are more likely to be involved in violent behavior.

School Connections

Of all the measures of school environment examined, only two make a difference—one positive, one negative—for adolescents’ mental health: feeling connected to school, and believing students at school to be prejudiced. Both older and younger students who feel connected to their school report lower levels of emotional distress; they are less likely to think about, or attempt, suicide. Students who perceive other students to be prejudiced report higher levels of emotional distress.

Students’ positive feelings of connectedness to schools are also moderately associated with lower levels of violent behavior. No other school characteristics appear to be associated with degrees of violence. What seems to matter most for adolescent health is that schools foster an atmosphere in which students feel fairly treated, close to others, and a part of the school.

Individual Characteristics

Adolescents’ attitudes, beliefs, and past experiences have important effects on their emotional health and on the choices they make about getting involved in risky behaviors. Teens who have high self-esteem are more likely to be protected from emotional distress. Having a good grade point average is also associated with less emotional distress. However, some factors increase the risk of emotional distress regardless of grade level: being held back one or more grades in school, and perceiving a risk of early death.

Older adolescents (those in grades 9-12) who report feeling attracted to someone of the same sex have greater emotional distress than their peers who do not. Older adolescents who work at a paid job for 20 or more hours a week and those who say they look older than their peers are also at greater risk for emotional distress. Younger teens (those in 7th and 8th grade) who report looking younger than most of their peers also experience more emotional distress. For all teens, being physically “out of sync” with peers seems to extract an emotional price.

Only a few individual characteristics play a role in whether teens report contemplating or attempting suicide. Those who think they will die young are at risk regardless of age. For younger teens, a low grade point average is significantly related to having thoughts about or attempted suicide. For older teens, both low self-esteem and looking older than peers are also significant risk factors.

Those teens most likely to be involved in committing violent acts are those who have been a victim or a witness to violence, carry a weapon, are involved in deviant behavior, or sell drugs.

Source: This article is based upon Blum, R. W., & Rinehart, P. M. (1997) Reducing the Risk: Connections That Make a Difference in the Lives of Youth. Division of General Pediatrics & Adolescent Health, University of Minnesota. Reducing the Risk is written from the data collected in the Add Health Survey cited below. Used with permission.

1 Resnick, M. D., Bearman, P. S., Blum, R. W., Bauman, K. E., Harris, K. M., Jones, J., Tabor, J., Beuhring, T., Sieving, R. E., Shew, M., Ireland, M., Bearinger, L. H., & Udry, J. R. (1997). “Protecting adolescents from harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health.” Journal of the American Medical Association, 278, 10, 823-832. Add Health is federally funded, congressionally mandated longitudinal study of adolescents in grades 7 through 12 and the multiple social contexts in which they live. The primary sampling frame included all high schools in the United States that had an 11th grade and at least 30 enrollees in the school (N=26,666). From this a systematic random sample of 80 high schools was selected proportional to the enrollment size, stratified by region, urbanicity, school type, and percentage white. The final sample was of 134 schools. A random sample of 15,243 adolescents stratified by grade and sex was selected for in-home interviews; 79.5% completed the first phase of 90-minute interviews conducted between April and December 1995.


To help create peace, I agree to

  • respect and listen to others. I agree to listen to others and to expect that others will listen to me. One person will talk at a time, without interruptions, and no one will monopolize the conversation.
  • keep confidentiality. I agree to keep what is said in class or discussions confidential, unless it is dangerous to do so—that is, unless a situation described really requires us to get some outside help. I won’t repeat what someone else says without getting that person’s permission.
  • offer amnesty. I agree not to blame anyone, or hold or use what they say in discussion against them after the discussion ends.
  • use put-ups, not put-downs. I agree not to put down, make fun of, minimize, or attack other people. I will not put myself down either; for example, I will not begin speaking by saying something like, “This may sound stupid, but . . .”
  • avoid crosstalking and piggybacking. I agree to allow everyone to say what they need to say without debating, denying, attacking, or agreeing with or supporting it. I will allow people’s words to stand on their own, without trying to take them over.
  • allow the right to pass, as well as take a chance. I agree that everyone has the right to be silent when they want to be. I also encourage everyone to take a chance.
  • respect feelings. I agree to respect and allow other people—and myself—to experience feelings of hurt, sadness, boredom, anger, and excitement.
  • use “I” statements. I agree to speak only for myself and my own experiences. I will use the word I in place of words you, we, or they.
  • try on the process. I realize that I am not required to agree with it or accept it . . . just to try it on.
  • take care of myself. I agree, as much as possible, to take charge of my own needs. This includes enjoying and having fun during the process.

Reprinted and adapted with permission from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence’s publication, Making the Peace: An Approach to Preventing Relationship Violence by Allan Creighton. Copyright 2000 NRC.

Lampen, J. (1992). The Peace Kit: Everyday Peace Making for Young People. London, England: Quaker Home Service. Available through Friends General Conference Bookstore, 1216 Arch St. 2B, Philadelphia, PA 19107, 1.800.966.4556, FGC QuakerBooks.

Do you have problems with losing your temper? friends who quarrel? being bullied? helping children who are unpopular? understanding your feelings? family arguments? not knowing how to relax? getting into trouble? standing up against unfairness? This book, for children of ten and upwards, may help.

Lewis, B. (1997). What Do You Stand For? A Kid’s Guide to Building Character. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.

This book empowers children and teens to identify and build the character traits that are most important to them. True stories profile kids who exemplify positive traits and set the stage for kids to think about, discuss and debate positive traits. Ages 10 and up.

Lewis, B. (1998). The Kid’s Guide to Social Action. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc.

Have you ever been sprawled on the carpet, munching chips while watching a TV reporter discuss a problem in the news? You may have said to yourself, “I know what I’d do if I were in charge.”

You might be shocked at the number of people who would not only listen to you, but also act on your suggestions. Kids around the world are tackling mountains of community problems. And adults are standing with hands on hips and gaping mouths as they witness kids pushing through laws, cleaning up vacant lots, collecting tons of newspapers to recycle, even making pets out of endangered protozoa. These aren’t superkids with magical powers. They’re regular kids, just like you.

The Kids Guide to Social Action can help you transform your creative thinking into actions that make a difference in your neighborhood, your town or city, your state, your country, and your world. But this isn’t a book of lesson plans. It isn’t a book of ready-made projects. It won’t tell you what to do. It will give you the skills you need to solve the social problems you choose.

Seo, D. (2001). Be the Difference: A Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

When Danny Seo was 12 years old, he inspired more than 25,000 teenagers across the country to join him in a conservation effort called Earth 2000, attracting the support of respected figures like Dr. Jane Goddall as well as many prestigious journals. Now 22 years old, he outlines grassroots activism from soup to nuts. Whether the reader wants to start a new organization, join an already active one or revive one that’s floundering, Seo shares countless examples of how he managed the various roles required (e.g., fund-raising, attracting national media attention).

Resources for Adults Who Work with Kids

Peaceable Classroom Materials

The model of the Peaceable Classroom is based on the pioneering peace education work of two groups, the Nonviolence and Children Program in Philadelphia, and the Children’s Creative Response to Conflict Project in New York. It is an approach to teaching conflict resolution that has been used for over twenty years at all grade levels and in all types of schools: urban, suburban, and rural. The Peaceable Classroom is a caring classroom community that emphasizes six themes:

  • Cooperation
  • Communication
  • Appreciation of diversity
  • The healthy expressing of feelings
  • Responsible decision making
  • Conflict resolution

Kreidler, W. (1984). Creative Conflict Resolution: More Than 200 Activities for Keeping Peace in the Classroom. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company.

Every classroom has conflict. If you would like to use the conflict in the classroom productively, then welcome to Creative Conflict Resolution. This book reflects Kreidler’s belief that conflicts can be reduced through the establishment of a caring classroom community, and that the conflict remaining can be used for learning. Creative Conflict Resolution is an approach to classroom management. It is not a curriculum etched in stone. In many ways, this book is like a tool kit containing some plans and many tools.

Each chapter in this book begins with information to help teachers better understand the approach. The second part of each chapter contains descriptions of activities for implementing the approach. The activities are grouped according to the topics discussed in the chapters. For each activity, grade levels are suggested, but many are adaptable for higher or lower (suggestions for adapting are included). Also included in the book are exercises for teachers to use to examine their classroom, students’ behavior, and themselves in light of the material being discussed.

Kreidler, W. (1990). Elementary Perspectives 1: Teaching Concepts of Peace and Conflict. Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility.*

What is peace? We hear the word used in a variety of ways, in a variety of contexts, by a variety of people. “Peace” means something different to each one of us. It’s a collection of concepts, and our personal definitions are made up of our attitudes, experiences, feelings, behaviors, and moods.

If peace is so complex an idea, can it be taught? Exactly what do we teach when we teach about peace? This is a resource guide for anyone who works with children in grades K through 6. It is based on several beliefs. The first is that children and adults should be encouraged to explore the concepts of peace and to develop their personal definitions of peace. Second, the attitudes, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make up those definitions should be examined. Third, there are skills that are commonly agreed upon as being part of the definition of peace, and those skills can be taught. Finally, by examining obstacles to peace and the opposite of peace, we learn something about what peace means.

Kreidler, W. (1994). Teaching Conflict Resolution Through Children’s Literature. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.

Teaching Conflict Resolution Through Children’s Literature is the book for any teacher who would like to help primary grade students become more effective and independent in handling conflicts. Its purpose is to help teachers teach conflict resolution and other social skills as they work with children on reading and language arts.

Children’s literature can be used to introduce, model, and reinforce conflict resolution skills; to develop understanding and concepts about conflict; to develop core themes and values in the classroom.

Kreidler, W., & Furlong, L. (1995). Adventures in Peacemaking: A Conflict Activity Guide for School-Age Programs. Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility.* Kreidler, W. (1996). Adventures in Peacemaking: A Conflict Activity Guide for Early Childhood Providers. Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility.*

These guides help early childhood educators and staff in school-age child care settings teach children effective, nonviolent ways to resolve conflict. These guides were developed to meet the unique needs of child care providers and provide assistance in three areas:

  • Implementing instruction in key conflict resolution concepts
  • Developing children’s skills using experiential education strategies
  • Developing approaches for resolving conflict in child care programs

Kreidler, W. (1997). Conflict Resolution in the Middle School. Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility.*

Middle school is one of the most exciting places to teach conflict resolution. Students are beginning to reexamine their relationships with their peers, their teachers, their parents, their world. Conflict is a natural and necessary part of this process. Middle schoolers want to know how to handle conflicts when the old way—getting help from an adult—is no longer acceptable. They scoff at easy or pat answers. They are a demanding audience. But they will eagerly explore and embrace new skills and concepts if they are credible. And they will eagerly apply what they learn about interpersonal conflict to larger conflicts in the community, the country, the world. They are ready to examine concepts of power, injustice, prejudice, and violence, and this book helps teachers guide them through the process.

*Educators for Social Responsibility contact information:
23 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Tel: 617.492.1764, Fax: 617.864.5164

Books & Curriculum

Cherry, C. (1981). Think of Something Quiet: A Guide for Achieving Serenity in Early Childhood Classrooms. Carthage, IL: Fearon Teacher Aids.

Think of Something Quiet has been written to aid both children and adults develop skills in resting and relaxing that will help them maintain an undertone of serenity in their lives, both in and out of the classroom. The exercises and games in this book help children learn that they can be in control of their own bodies and feelings rather than letting their bodies and feelings control them. The book explores means by which adults can enhance their sensitivity to the inner world of children, and help children learn to reduce their own stress by looking inward into themselves.

Fry-Miller, K., & Myers-Walls, J. (1988). Young Peacemakers Project Book. Elgin, IL: Brethren Press. Fry-Miller, K., Myers-Walls, J., & Domer-Shank, J. (1989). Peace Works: Young Peacemakers Project Book II. Elgin, IL: Brethren Press.

Several crucial strategies in educating for peacemaking are exemplified in innovative ways in these books. First, peacemaking needs to be the art of the possible. People must be affirmed in what they are already doing before they can conceive of moving on to anything else. Secondly, peace educators must model the world they are seeking to create both in the content and in the methodology of their educational activities. A third important strategy for peacemaking is nurturing of compassion in different areas of children’s lives. A fourth strategy is based on the reality that all of us are moved by the lives and stories of people who are working for change. Lastly, peacemaking must be a joy-filled endeavor.

Both books are designed to be used by parents and adults who work with children from three to ten years old.

Janke, R. A., & Peterson, J. P. (1995). Peacemaker’s A, B, Cs for Young Children. Marine on St. Croix, MN: Growing Communities for Peace.

This book provides a framework for early childhood teachers, K–3 elementary teachers, family child care providers, and those teaching in spiritual traditions, to create communities of peace. Readers will be able to improve their skills to design a peacemaking environment, be more effective peaceful role models for children, and help children learn peacemaking skills.

Katz, J. (1998). More Than a Few Good Men: Strategies for Inspiring Boys and Young Men to be Allies in Anti-Sexist Education. Wellesley, MA: Center for Research on Women, Wellesley College.

This paper outlines six key strategies for inspiring boys and young men to be allies with girls and women in gender violence prevention education. Many of the ideas were developed during hundreds of single-sex workshops and classes conducted across the United States over the past decade with boys’ and men’s athletic teams, college fraternities, and groups of enlisted men and officers in the U.S. Marine Corps and Army, as well as mixed-gender workshops and classes in middle schools, high schools and colleges.

Kivel, P., & Creighton A. (1997). Making the Peace: A 15-Session Violence Prevention Curriculum for Young People. Published jointly by Oakland Men’s Project and Hunter House Inc., Publishers, Alameda, CA.

One thing we know is that most violence occurs among people who know each other. Homicide, sexual assault, family violence, fights between students—over 90 percent of all violence in this country is committed not by strangers, but by friends, dates, family members, coworkers, or classmates. Furthermore, 95 percent of all physical and sexual violence is committed by men.

These facts have two implications. First, violence happens when the social bonds of a community break down and violence between people who know each other is tolerated, expected, condoned, or praised. Second, we must look to the gender-role training that teaches young men to use violence to establish who they are and to get their needs met. This curriculum addresses violence among and against young people: what it is, where it comes from, and how to stop it. The goal is to help young people understand and heal from violence, to come together as a community to make the peace. The Making the Peace curriculum is built on the idea that violence is whatever hinders, limits, or damages us as human beings, including not only direct hurt but the long-tem internalized effects of that hurt.

Stein, N. & Capello, D. (1999). Gender Violence/Gender Justice: An Interdisciplinary Guide for Teachers of English, Literature, Social Studies, Psychology, Health, Peer Counseling, and Family and Consumer Sciences (Grades 7 through 12). Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women.

The purpose of this teaching guide is to explore power, inequities, and violence—as well as friendship, interventions, justice and courage—in relationships. The large subject of gender violence, which includes hazing, sexual harassment, and sexual assault, can be deepened, reinforced and strengthened by connections to and infusion into social studies and humanities courses. Classroom discussions on these topics can be extended beyond a particular lesson through literature, writing assignments, case studies, mock trials and research assignments.

The unique feature of this teaching guide is that it is literature and history based. Going beyond discussions of negative interpersonal interactions, the teaching guide makes use of selections from literature and history to include lessons on the themes of friendship, mutuality, affection, courage and loyalty—some of the qualities we hope will replace violence and coercion in interpersonal relationships.

This is a teaching guide that is designed to be cross and inter-disciplinary, being used, in whole or in part, by teachers in several departments.

Macbeth, F., & Fine, N. (1995). Playing with Fire: Creative Conflict Resolution for Young Adults. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

This course is aimed primarily at those responsible for running training programs for youth-work professionals and volunteers. But it is appropriate for all those who work with young people—not only in youth clubs but in homes, special needs centers, youth training programs, the penal service, volunteer projects, and further and higher education. And it will be found useful by workers who are running training within their own staff team. It is envisaged that the training will ultimately be passed on to young people themselves. Materials specially adapted for use with young people, including a selection of exercises from this manual, can be found in the companion publication Fireworks (Youth Work Press, 1992).

Slaby, R. G., Roedell, W. C., Arezzo, D.,& Hendrix, K. (1995). Early Violence Prevention: Tools for Teachers of Young Children. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Each day the problem of violence in our society walks into the preschool classroom through the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of young children. Although early childhood educators alone cannot be expected to remedy the problems children face with extreme violence in our society, they have a distinct opportunity to contribute to violence prevention through their interactions with the children. Early childhood staff enter an arena in which the propensity for violence—promoted in so many areas of society—can be challenged and reduced through the developing hearts and minds of children. Teachers can empower children by helping them develop the patterns of thought, feeling, and action that can effectively prevent violence.

Smith, C. (1993). The Peaceful Classroom: 162 Activities to Teach Preschoolers Compassion and Cooperation. Mt. Rainier, MD: Gryphon House.

The Peaceful Classroom provides 162 classroom activities for children from about 3 to 5 years of age, although they can be used with children up to age 8. Activities are organized into four chapters: Friendship, Compassion, Cooperation, and Kindness. Each chapter explores three or more skills:

  • Friendship: association, conversation, belonging, friendship
  • Compassion: recognition of emotions, problem solving, expression
  • Cooperation: cooperation, consideration of others, negotiation
  • Kindness: caretaking, gentleness, helping, generosity, rescue/ protection, respect/ encouragement

Each of the four themes builds upon the previous, and provides a foundation for those that follow. Parent involvement is an important element: each of the 162 activities includes at least one suggestion for reaching out to parents. Each section begins with a letter to parents that can be reprinted or rewritten to introduce parents to what you hope to accomplish.

On the web at Engaging Schools; e-mail: info@engagingschools.org

Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

© 2002

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