Violence prevention and conflict resolution

Abstract: The objectives of the study were (1) to contribute to development of a theoretical basis for teaching violence prevention and conflict resolution, connecting the micro (inter-personal and intergroup) and macro (national, international and transnational) levels; and (2) to contribute to development of teaching methods with the aim of giving children skills in handling conflicts constructively. The perspective of the study is a social-psychological one where Human Needs Theory (Burton) plays an important role. This means that satisfaction of “basic human needs” is suggested as a goal or “navigation point” when building society at all levels. The empirical study was conducted from 1993 through 1996. Teaching methods — inspired by two teaching guides from the U.S. — were tried out in seven different classes where data collection was more extensive in one of them than in the other ones. It consisted of interviews with the children, their class teacher and a questionnaire to the parents. Diaries from the lessons were kept in all the classes. Individual and group response by the children, aged 10–12, was observed, analysed and interpreted. Opportunities for and obstacles to teaching violence prevention and conflict resolution are discussed on the basis of the findings. Important opportunities found were: a good theoretical framework; drawing from experiences of teaching programmes in other parts of the world; children’s interest in role plays (including forum plays); and a situation at school where many conflicts occur which provide ample opportunities for practice. One important obstacle was a discrepancy between skills taught in our lessons and children’s daily experiences. Lack of visions of change was another, related obstacle. This applies to adults and children alike. The author suggests training of pre-school and school teachers at all levels.