Children's Perception of Violence: A Thematic Analysis of Student Essays
MetadataShow full item record
Exposure to violence which affects approximately three out of every five children in America is clearly a threat to the health and well-being of society. Previous research on youth exposure to violence has focused primarily on the implications for victims or the treatment of the offenders. While some research has concentrated on the lived experience of the children who are subjected to violence, it has generally been defined within a specific domain such as domestic violence or bullying. By understanding children’s perspective on the violence experienced within their everyday life, professionals can design comprehensive prevention and intervention programs that better target children who have been exposed to violence. Using the secondary data available from the “Do the Write Thing” (DtWT) Challenge, this research project explored significant issues of violence as experienced and perceived by children in 13 middle schools from 9 districts in Region V of Texas. The DtWT Challenge is an initiative of the National Campaign to Stop Violence in which participating students engage in classroom discussions about violence and then write essays addressing the issues. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze significant issues that are related to exposure to violence after controlling for demographic differences. Qualitative data in the form of the submitted written essays were coded, and categorized to identify major themes of how children describe their experience of violence and assign meaning to violence. Results indicate that students wrote more about bullying than other forms of violence, and they more likely identified their role as a witness than victim or perpetrator. Protective factors were described proportionally more by students in schools identified as Economically Disadvantaged or Minority Schools. Several themes within three domains (cognitive, social, and moral) arose including defining violence in terms of bullying, violence as a universal experience, and complex emotions related to violence.