What a child does not receive he (or she) can seldom later give… (P.D. James)
What is done to children, they will do to society… (Karl Menniger)
These two quotations capture, in a nutshell, the conclusions of the WAVE Report, produced after a decade of carefully reviewing the published research into violent behaviour.
WAVE Trust directs its efforts towards understanding and reducing the causes of violence in our society by identifying validated research, theoretical models and intervention strategies, which focus on improving the quality of the child-parent relationship, especially in the first three years of life, and on promoting the growth of empathy in the young child. The work of the WAVE organisation is supported by some of the world's leading academics and practitioners in the fields of child abuse, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, neurobiology and clinical, educational and forensic psychology.
The WAVE study highlights the critical nature of parenting in the first 3 years of a child's life; especially in the development of attunement between carer and child in the first 15 months of a child's life, and the fostering of empathy in the child through its earliest experiences of adult care. In the past, these two factors have been largely ignored in public policy priorities for reducing violence and abuse, since conventional initiatives have largely focused on a reactive response to 'treating' already-violent and often dangerous people.
The Trustees of the WAVE organization are therefore advocating a proactive approach to tackling the source of violent tendencies in people by providing them with the essential early childhood experiences, which enable them to become well-adjusted adults with high levels of empathy, and eventually, to become sensitive and caring parents.
The WAVE Report concludes that early intervention is effective in reducing violent and anti-social behaviour in children and young people; preventive intervention is much more effective than reactive intervention and the earlier intervention takes place, the more effective it is.
WAVE Initiatives in 2006
Since the WAVE Report appeared at the end of 2005 there has been a flurry of activity by both trustees and voluntary members of this organisation, which has been directed towards disseminating the report, its message and recommended action across the UK and Ireland. Some of these efforts are now beginning to generate positive outcomes for the WAVE Trust. Here are just some of the events in 2006 with which WAVE has been (or will be) involved:
Early Intervention Event: Promoting Positive Mental Health in Infancy and Childhood, Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council; Scottish Violence Reduction Conference, Glasgow.
One Nottingham Consultations for "preventative, pre-emptive and early intervening" strategies; Westminster briefing session for MPs and senior civil servants.
The Europeace Conference in London. The WAVE report is now available on this European Union organisation's website.
The Community Safety and Preventive Service in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. This multi-agency group are currently developing their plans to set up a home visiting scheme for vulnerable families in the borough.
The East Ayrshire Childcare Partnership Conference. The EACP are currently planning to set up a conference on the roots of violence for primary and secondary school managers in this region of Scotland.
"Violence and What to do about it" is the topic of the first WAVE Think Tank, which was held in London on September the 18th and 19th. This event attracted a number of contributors from both the national and international stages, including the UK children's commissioner, Prof. Sir Al Aynsley-Green and Dr Bruce Perry, from the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas. Also attending this conference were civil servants from central government, especially The Treasury, the PM's Strategy Unit, the Home Office, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health. A number of leading UK academics and chief executives from local government and the voluntary sector also attended.
This conference brought together a rich mixture of about 50 people with academic, applied and 'getting things to happen' skills. The main objective of the Think Tank was to prepare an action plan which clearly sets out what can be done in education, health, social services and the justice/police sector to tackle the roots of violence.
New Scotland Yard Seminars; West Sussex County Council, Community Safety Unit - Presentation of pilot study on supporting children affected by domestic violence.
WAVE presentations to the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit and to Home Start (Scotland).
The above events represent the public signs of activity within the WAVE organisation, but just as important are a number of important discussions and negotiations taking place in the background. To mention a few:
Still at an early stage, but negotiations are underway for a premier league university to produce a cost-benefit analysis of proactive, early interventions to reduce later violent behaviour (as opposed to the conventional reactive strategies, which absorb most of the local and central government spending in this social problem area).
Discussions with the London Metropolitan Police continue; an update review of evidence-based approaches to reducing child abuse and violence is currently being carried out.
WAVE continues to raise public awareness through published articles and the production of a video showing the work of WAVE.
Finally, in a recent issue of 'The Psychologist' which is devoted to the topic of aggressive and violent behaviour, Sanders and Morawska have concluded that it is the quality of parenting which is the strongest, potentially modifiable risk factor contributing to early-onset conduct problems. They report, "evidence from behaviour genetics research and epidemiological, correlational and experimental studies shows that parenting practices have a major influence on many different domains of children's development. Specifically, the lack of a warm, positive relationship with parents, insecure attachment and inadequate supervision of and involvement with children are strongly associated with children's increased risk for behavioural and emotional problems"1 (page 447).
For the trustees and volunteers in the WAVE Trust, such a conclusion comes as no surprise!!
1 Sanders, M. R. and Morawska, A. (2006). Towards a public health approach to parenting. The Psychologist, 19 (8), 476 - 479.