chapter  24
20 Pages

The roots of violence: theory and implications for technique with children and adolescents


Is there a difference between aggression and violence? Why does someone act violently? Are there developmental factors that set a young person on the road to violence? Are there danger signs or triggers that we can be alert to? How can we work with youngsters who are violent? These are some of the questions addressed in this chapter, which considers violence perpetrated by an individual, rather than in groups or gangs. (For a psychoanalytic account of adolescent group violence see Hyatt Williams 1997.)

Basically, yes! Aggression is a natural part of life and a major source of energy. It is vital for progressive development but without appropriate control and management, it can get out of hand and lead to violence. Without aggression we would not be able to assert or protect ourselves or others, learn or work effectively, separate or develop autonomy (Winnicott 1963). Like sexuality, aggression can be used constructively and progressively, or destructively and regressively. Its appropriateness in any speci®c situation depends on the manner of its expression and the developmental level of the individual. In situations of very real danger, violent aggression to protect the self or others may be entirely appropriate. On the other hand, such behaviours as sadism, contemptuous denigration, bullying and wanton destructiveness are largely regressive and arise from pathology not health.