Public-health approach to violence
The Editor, Sir:
There is compelling evidence that media violence, including music videos, causes an increase in aggressive thoughts, emotions, and behaviour, including physically aggressive behaviour serious enough to harm others.
However, there, is a paucity of data supporting similar outcomes with exposure to music, particularly our local music. Studies have shown that the best single predictor of violent behaviour in older adolescents and young adults is aggressive behaviour when they were younger. Thus, influences that promote aggressive behaviour in young children can contribute to increasingly aggressive and ultimately violent behaviour many years later. It is, therefore, important to identify factors, including music that, singly and together, may play a role in shaping aggressive behaviour.
The recent publication of a study on violence and dancehall conducted by Dr Donna Hope-Marquis is welcomed to the growing body of research informing the public-health approach to violence. The study appears to measure perceptions of respondents on the influence of dancehall music on themselves, their family and friends. The final conclusion was that no correlation was found between dancehall music and violence.
In Jamaican children, Dr Julie Meeks Gardener's research linked corporal punishment and violence in the community as the two main factors contributing to a high level of aggression in Jamaican primary school children. Theoretically, these children observed violent people and learnt that aggression can be used to solve interpersonal conflicts. After repeated exposure, it is reinforced that this is acceptable behaviour and they imitate it.
Social factors and parental influence moderate or alter the chances that a child will carry out aggressive behaviours learned from their environment. The violent messages in certain dancehall music could be a factor that reinforces the violence children see around them.
While many different factors work together to result in violent behaviour, it would be amiss to look at a single cause and rule it out. Further short-term and long-term studies measuring the influence of our music against the sub-culture of violence witnessed by our children would strengthen the existing studies.
Until then, public-health interventions that promote strong sanctions against violence and parental restriction on exposure to violent media could help mitigate the expression of violence in our youth.
I am, etc.,
Dr TRACY EVANS-GILBERT
Cornwall Regional Hospital