Pay attention to the homes!
Violence Prevention Commission points to factors that push kids towards violence
Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan (Photo: Philp Lemonte)

WITH 80 per cent of the Jamaicans 'living in communities where there is trauma', chair of the National Violence Prevention Commission, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, is calling attention to the home-grown risk factors which prime children for aggression and criminality later on.

"Risk and protective factor research tend to focus on children and youth primarily as research has shown clearly that though perpetrators and victims are primarily the 16-to-34-year age group, the risk factors for violent behaviour were imprinted earlier and that's the importance of prevention science," Professor Samms-Vaughan told a webinar on Thursday in providing an update on the work of the commission which was set up in 2019.

Key risk factors identified by researchers over the years include disruptive family settings, family members with convictions, poor housing, parental separation, exposure to violence, parenting, mental illness, and substance abuse. An analysis of crime in communities showed that 410 or almost 50 per cent of communities in the country have had no major crimes. However, the commission chair pointed out that while this was "huge" as it debunked the impression that 'every corner of the country' was crime-ridden, only 22 per cent of the population lives in virtual peace.

"So more than two-thirds, we are talking about nearly 80 per cent of our population live in communities where there is trauma. That is important," Samms-Vaughan said.

According to an early 2000 study which examined how violence plays out in the daily lives of children before leaving home for school in urban Jamaica, two out of three see and hear verbal abuse; one out of three see throwing of objects and hitting; one out of five see adults kick and beat each other, threaten or use a gun or knife. The children also have personal experience of violence before they leave home with eight out of 10 receiving verbal aggression and eight out of 10 getting hit. According to the same study, while walking in their communities nine out of 10 see fighting; seven out of 10 see stoning, five out of 10 see a dead person; four out of 10 see someone stabbed, three out of 10 see someone being shot and one out of 100 reported they were shot at.

The violence continues at school among their peers where three out of 10 get beaten up; two out of 10 get stoned and robbed and one out of 10 get stabbed.

"Stabbing is a cultural problem, it starts in school it starts with pencils and then when you get the geometry sets, so when we are seeing stabbing way up in the results, it starts all the way down," Samms-Vaughan said.

In noting that Jamaica stands head and shoulders above its Caribbean counterparts for violent discipline (physical/and emotional) over the years, Professor Samms-Vaughan said not enough attention has been paid to the psychological violence being inflicted on young children.

"In the social norms study, the children there were actually more concerned about psychological violence than they actually were about physical discipline. We had another small study where university students were asked about their experiences as small children in school, and they all reported on the things that were said to them in school more so than the physical discipline, so this is another area we have to capture and capture well, birth cohort studies are very important," the commission chair pointed out.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, speaking during the event, said the establishment of the commission marked the definitive move of the Government to deal with violence in the country.

"This is not going to be [done at] the flick of a switch, it will take time. We have been dealing with this since Columbus set foot in Jamaica. We are going to overcome violence," the prime minister said, noting the strides taken to eliminate corporal punishment here.

Alicia Dunkley-Willis

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at


  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy