JAMES GARBARINO: We're here on stage at the school because we're now going to talk about the positive influences to go along with those risk factors we talked about before. And the theater, the music, the art, the theater is one of the most positive places in the school for a lot of kids, one of the most positive experiences.
And just as the risk factors accumulate, and it's not a matter of one or which one, the same is true of the developmental assets. These are the positive influences that accumulate in a kid's life. And as we'll see, the more of them there are, the more likely things are to be going well for that teenager, for that child, for the whole school as a matter of fact.
And one of the most useful approaches to developmental assets I think comes from a group in Minnesota called the Search Institute. Over a long period of research they compiled a list of 40 developmental assets, each one of which has its own sort of research background or research foundation, but again, no one of which tells the whole story by itself.
Now these 40 developmental assets include all kinds of domains of the life of the human ecology of a child's life. They include things inside the kid's head directly, like the belief my life has a purpose. I mean, this is an asset, that belief.
They include things inside the family, like the family provides high levels of love and support. They provide things inside the school. For example, school provides clear rules and boundaries. They provide things sort of in the social experience of the school. For example, that a kid doesn't spend more than a couple of nights a week out with his friends.
They involve things in the community, things like three hours of music, art, or theater per week, three hours of community service per week, reading for pleasure an hour or more a week, going to religious activities at least once a week. So there's a whole list of things covering the whole human ecology.
Now how important are these assets? Well, again, no one of them is particularly important by itself. But the more you have, the less likely you are to have problem behavior and the more likely you are to have positive behavior.
You have a chart in your materials that shows the relationship between the number of assets and a whole series of problem behaviors-- alcohol abuse, tobacco use, illicit drug use, depression and suicide, violent behavior, school problems, drinking and driving. In each case, you can see that the more assets have accumulated, the less likely there is to be a problem.
Now for example, one that's received a lot of attention is the link between violent behavior. And what this meant in the study was that a kid had committed three or more acts of significant violence-- hurting people, threatening with a weapon, being involved in a fight that resulted in injuries. And the finding was that kids with zero to 10 assets were very likely to have this problem.
In their research, 61% of the kids with zero to 10 assets were likely to be involved in significant violence. But at the other end of the spectrum, only 6% of the kids with 31 to 40 assets were involved in significant violent behavior. So as you went from very few assets to a lot of assets, the likelihood of being involved in violence declined by a factor of 10. It was 10 times more common among zero to 10 assets than it was in 31 to 40.
Now of course, this doesn't tell the whole story. For example, the pattern is somewhat different for boys than girls. We know that in virtually every society, boys are more physically aggressive than girls. And so it should come as no surprise that even with zero to 10 assets, boys are more likely to be violent than girls. Something like 8% versus 2%. Among the kids who have 31 to 40 assets, kids who are boys are about 25% more likely to be violent than girls.
Now other problems show different patterns. For example, the measure of being seriously depressed and attempting suicide. For those kids who are zero to 10 assets, it's 50% more common among girls than it is among boys. So the gender of the child influences how these assets play out, what the school is, what the school does, what kind of community. But overall, you can see that the more assets in a child's life, the less likely they'll be these problems.
Now we have another chart that shows the relationship between positive influences and these assets, positive behaviors. And you'll see, for example, that kids who have lots of assets are more likely to do well in school. They're more likely to delay gratification, to be able to wait for a future payoff. They're more likely to have good health habits.
And one that I think is particularly interesting and actually quite useful and relevant to our topic is that kids who have lots of assets are more likely to value diversity. They're more likely to embrace kids who are different than themselves. Whereas kids with very few assets are more likely to express bigotry. They're more likely to be judgmental, involved in discrimination. And of course, that plays a role in the problem of bullying and harassment and emotional violence because those kinds of attitudes increase the problem, increase the likelihood that any particular kid will be involved in harassing, in bullying, and in emotionally violating other kids.
Now the good news about this list of 40 assets is it isn't fixed and it isn't all under the control of the family. You know, if we had to say we couldn't improve things until we fixed every family, we could come back in 100 years and still bemoan the fact that we haven't fixed all the families. But only about eight or 10 of those 40 assets lie directly inside the family.
And that's good news because it means that educators, politicians, social workers, counselors, all can work on some of those assets that lie outside the family. For example, we can work directly inside a kid's head to change his beliefs about himself, about the world, about the future, to help him or her be more hopeful.
We can work directly on the school. We can make sure the school does provide clear rules and boundaries, make sure that the school does provide a rich array of activities, make sure the school does provide respect. And we'll get into that later in the program.
We can also work in the neighborhood. For example, one of the neighborhood assets is having at least three adults who aren't your parent who take an interest in you. So mentoring, for example, is a way to increase the number of adults who are assets to kids.
We can provide music, art, and theater experiences for kids. Having a community music school is a way to make sure that asset gets to kids who wouldn't have it otherwise. Being sure there are activities for kids to keep them off the streets, helping them with their homework. There are things that everyone can do to increase the number of assets.
And as I say, it's pretty clear from this research that the more assets kids have, the less likely they are to be involved in problem behavior, both directly in bullying, harassment, and emotional violence, and in some of the other problems that contribute to it-- drugs and alcohol and other kinds of violent behavior. And the more assets we build into the lives of kids, the more likely we can expect to find the positive things that displace bullying-- valuing diversity, being able to wait, being patient, doing well in school, having good health habits in general.
And I think the Search Institute approach is one that many communities can find useful. The materials are there, the supports are there to map what assets look like in a particular community, to get an idea how a particular school and community compares with the national averages, because when the number of assets is low in a particular area, we need to see that as a defeat. We can see that as a kind of investment opportunity.
If only 20% of the kids are in music, art, and theater, let's boost that to 40% by increasing the assertiveness of our music and theater programs. If only 10% of the kids are involved in community service, there's a great opportunity to increase that. And all of those kinds of cooperative activities will make for a stronger, more positive social climate in the school, and thus, as we'll see in the coming segments, reduce the likelihood that kids will bully, that kids will be harassed, and that emotional violence will flourish in the school.
So let's move on now to what we can do really to make that happen.
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While there are fewer than 100 child fatalities each year at school, literally millions of kids suffer from physical and emotional violence in the form of bullying, harassment, stalking, intimidation, humiliation, and fear. Beyond the rare events of gun shots at school are the common events of psychological stabbings- the millions of kids who suffer emotional daggers to their hearts at school. Sticks and stones and bullets may break their bones, and words can break their hearts.
This presentation offers a guide for parents, professionals, and other concerned adults seeking to help their adolescents, their schools, and their communities overcome this problem. The presentation focuses on how the social system of the school plays a decisive role in the process of bullying, sexual harassment, and emotional violence in the lives of teenagers. It is based upon James Garbarino and Ellen deLara's
And Words Can Hurt Forever: How to Protect Adolescents from Bullying, Harassment, and Emotional Violence (NY: The Free Press, 2002).
This video is part 5 of 7 in the Protecting adolescents from bullying, sexual harassment, and emotional violence series.