Boys and the Spread of Violence

Written by Guest Writer, Yeshi Dolma

Raising a non-violent boy is tough because they’re bombarded by normalized violence on a daily basis. They see violence on television and in movies where “good men” are justified in using violence to solve their problems. In communities, boys might witness violence and participate in fights. At school, boys might learn that fights are an acceptable way of handling interpersonal conflict. Boys might also receive beatings and be told it’s for their own good. However, violence is not a solution to problems; it’s not a viable discipline method because violence only makes more violence.

Violence is a public health threat that spreads like a disease by infecting individuals and entire communities. It can be mapped, and its spread can be predicted 1. Violence can be stopped in the same way that an epidemic can be stopped by depending on community workers. Community workers act like violence disruptors; they find people who are the survivors of violence, and they locate those who spread it. Community workers interrupt the spread of violence by teaching others a better way to handle conflicts and emotions much in the same way that Equal Community Foundation works with boys to stop gender inequality.

Growing up surrounded by violence is how violence is transmitted to children. It can have effects that last an entire lifetime. In addition to learning how to be violent, when boys are the victims of violence, they are more likely to blame others and act aggressively or violently.2 Boys who are victims of violence also turn to alcohol and drugs more often than girls in order to numb their emotional pain 2.

Boys who grow up with a violent parent are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), where the brain rewires itself as a direct result of living through trauma. A child with PTSD could have problems in school or forming relationships with loved ones. Boys who grew up witnessing their father beating their mother are more likely to be violent toward their wife or partners because witnessing violence is a way that violence can be transmitted.

There are things that :

  • Be a nonviolent role model. As simple as it sounds, don’t use violence to solve problems. Boys look to their fathers as an example of how to be a man. If you are violent, your sons will learn that violence is acceptable and normal.
  • Understand that using violence even as a form of punishment doesn’t motivate your son to change because it’s a solution based on fear. What does work are consequences and imparting a sense of self-responsibility.
  • Treat your wife and the women in your life with respect and kindness. Explain to your son why violence is never a solution.
  • Accept all of your feelings and teach your son to do the same. Teach him it’s okay for him to have, and talk about his feelings.
  • Defend your son from other’s ridicule. If your son is being ridiculed for crying or having his feelings, step in and defend him. Teach others why non-violence includes allowing boys and men to have feelings and have those feelings validated by others.
  • Work with your son’s school to create a program where boys learn how to safely deal with their feelings in a nonviolent way.


  2. Arlin J. Benjamin, Jr., Sven Kepes, Brad J. Bushman. Effects of Weapons on Aggressive Thoughts, Angry Feelings, Hostile Appraisals, and Aggressive Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Weapons Effect Literature. September 17, 2017.
  3. Gender Differences in the Effects of Exposure to Violence on Adolescent Substance Use, Gillian M. Pinchevsky, MA, Emily M. Wright, PhD, and Abigail A. Fagan, PhD