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Do the Family and the Peer Group Play Important Roles in the Reproduction of Violence in Everyday Practice?

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The term violence doesn't necessarily have a fixed definition; it can be interpreted in many ways and the understanding of violence changes from person to person, circumstance to circumstance.... What one man may see as a violent act, the next man may disagree. A violent act cannot, "amount to a criminal offence unless at least some observer considered it to be justified." (1) One has to consider whether the violent act was committed intentionally, recklessly or accidentally. The word aggression is often synonymous with violence, yet we are encouraged to channel aggression properly and put it into practices in fields such as sport and business. This can be dangerous as "aggressive tendencies develop in many people... in an increasingly competitive world" (2) the most important factor here is that both violence and aggression are attempts to impose dominance. (3) The various interpretations of violence can be best put simply into four categories; physically defensive, where violence is seen as the only way to prevent injury to one's self. The defining emotion here is fear; frustrative, where the victim is seen as uncooperative or resistant. The defining emotion here is anger; malefic, where the victim is seen as disrespectful or contemptuous. The defining emotion here is hatred; and frustrative-malefic where anger is displaced by hatred.

Juvenile violent crime today often heavily involves the usage of weapons, In particular knives. The crimes of juveniles are often a lot more violent than years previous and we can draw on examples from the murder of Jamie Bulger and Damiola Taylor. Although these, at large, are restricted (and high profile) cases there is still a growing feeling that juveniles today are more competitive on the "streets" and are getting involved in violence as a means to impress fellow peers through gaining a reputation and also getting more desperate in search of material goods such as mobile phones. Both these factors have always been key in the growing-up process of adolescents. Peer group influence is well established especially regarding drugs and alcohol. It can also extend to bullying behaviour- which can also be a response by a child who, themselves, is being bullied at home by an over-bearing parent. In this way the child uses bullying as a release, out of frustration with conditions at home. Bullying can also be attributed to part of growing up. A lot of bullies are regular children, with no history of violence or abuse, who simply try to impress their peers by physically and mentally attacking a child whom they deem weaker than them. It would have no significance on their later life, if anything they would look back at how they behaved with guilt and shame; it's something that we grow out of as we move into the maturity of adulthood. It has been stated that children who are friends with children that are bullies are more likely to bully themselves. This claim fits with the "homophily hypothesis" that individual behaviour is influenced by the groups they are part of. (4)

The influence of a peer group is not just restricted to children in their early adolescent years but is a factor that influences people right through their lives. Peer groups are formed when people in similar locations and social structures come together and collectively they experience everyday life from a specific position in society and so they differently construct the, "cultural ideals of hegemonic masculinity." (5) Men in all social classes form "specialized" relationships with one another. For many lower working class men the focus of this bond is initiated through a street group. In particular, neighbourhood-specific street groups form in containing large number of ethnic minorities. "Ghettos" are formed and this provides a competitive venue for individuals to prove their worth within the group, "to prove himself a man among men." (6) Participation in street violence can be a result of a lack of other hegemonic masculine ideals such as a lack of paid employment, lack of wealth or the lack of a partner. Peer groups influence violence because many adolescent friendships are based on conceptions of hegemonic masculinity such as gaining a reputation and protecting your territory (ghetto). Many group networks re-define these conceptions, so, in order to gain your reputation you have to show that you can, "stand up to physical confrontation." (7)

According to Messerschmidt (1993), ethnic minority males seek masculinity through group violence in order to make up for the masculine status they are denied in educational and occupational spheres. If other masculine outlets are unavailable then crime becomes an appropriate means of, "doing gender." (8) In this instance, the specific act of violence is a result of other's expectations and attitudes showing that peer groups are actively influencing men who have reached adulthood.

It is claimed that masculinity is achieved by middle-class white males through educational and occupational processes such as sporting and academic success and that working-class white males gain masculinity through the occupational sector. This is derived from the, "class and race divisions of labour and power..." (9) Men use resources available to them to assert their gender, to show how "manly" they are. Violence is a way of seeking prestige and acclaim. Minority ethnic groups require more effort to prove their masculinity because they have fewer outlets and so are more likely to create a more, "physically violent opposition masculinity," such as a public display of "toughness". (10)

Two thirds of children name a parent as their key support person in their life. (11) This amplifies just how important the role of the family is in bringing up and child and influencing their definitions of right and wrong, good or bad... What a child witnesses at home is undoubtedly stick in their minds throughout their adolescent years and through to adulthood. The quality of home life is going to help determine what sort of a person that specific child is going to become- whether they are going to be violent or non-violent, for example.

Parents with a history of anti-social behaviour are more likely than other parents to abuse or neglect their children, to use inconsistent or harsh disciplinary methods with their children, to poorly monitor and supervise their children's activities, to spend an inadequate amount of time with their children, to be unresponsive, to act a spoor role models and to tolerate anti-social behaviour from their children. (12) However, parenting can be affected by the child's temperament (certain children are biologically difficult to deal with). Johnson et al (2004) shows that

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