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A solution to violence is in our hands: We’d judge others less harshly if we knew more about the cerebral cortex.

Mat, G. (2000). A solution to violence is in our hands: We’d judge others less harshly if we knew more about the cerebral cortex. Globe and Mail. Toronto.
Last week the journal Science reported that in people prone to violence, the portion of the brain responsible for emotional self-regulation appears to be short-circuited. These scientific findings concerning how the brain may malfunction raise questions about our understanding of human behaviour. And they pose a challenge to our fundamental assumptions about education, law and some current child-rearing practices.

Researchers have identified the orbitofrontal cortex as the cerebral area where dysfunction is likely to be located in individuals subject to hostile outbursts and aggression. The orbitofrontal cortex is part of the prefrontal cortex, the area of grey matter most involved in social intelligence, impulse control, and attention. So-named because of its proximity to the eye socket, or orbit, the orbitofrontal cortex is more developed in the right hemisphere, the side of the brain that dominates our emotional functioning. This crucial portion of grey matter appears to have the responsibility of evaluating and regulating emotional impulses, such as fear and rage, generated in the lower brain centres.

Whenever people exhibit impulsive outbursts of emotion accompanied by failures of behavioural self-control, we’re likely witnessing short-circuiting of the wiring of the orbitofrontal cortex. Such short-circuiting occurs not only during episodes of overt violence, but also during everyday failures of self-regulation, be it episodes of road rage, or in children throwing temper tantrums on the playground, or in parents “losing it” and screaming at their children.

We tend to view the cortex as the “thinking” part of the brain, and therefore as the initiator of human activity. In reality, one of its most important functions is inhibition.

“The cortex’s job is to prevent the inappropriate response, rather than to produce the appropriate one,” psychologist and neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux has written. Impulsive outbursts of aggression do not necessarily result from a conscious decision by an individual to do something violent. Instead, there may be a failure on the part of the orbitofrontal cortex to dampen a hostile urge originating in structures deep down in the brain that function well below the level of consciousness. By the time the person becomes aware of the impulse to act, he may have already committed the deed.

As we come to understand the neurophysiological substrate of human behaviours, we should be less inclined to judge and condemn our fellow human beings, and more interested in inquiry into how precisely the brain develops the capacity for self-regulation.

What can interfere with the wiring of the orbitofrontal cortex? Injury to the brain may be at fault, as was the case in some of the subjects reviewed in the Science article. Genetic predisposing factors may also contribute in some cases. However, the commonest source of disruption to the circuitry of self-regulation is neither physical trauma nor heredity, but the absence of the conditions required for proper development.

There is now a large body of evidence suggesting that the infant’s emotional interactions with its primary caregivers provide the major influence on the physiological and biochemical development of the brain regions responsible for emotional and behavioural self-control. When infants and young children lack parenting, which is emotionally nurturing and consistently available, given in a non-stressed atmosphere, research suggests that problems of self-regulation often result. The greater the deprivation, the less optimally the orbitofrontal cortex is likely to develop and function, and the greater the predictable difficulties in self-regulation.

Children’s future brain functioning depends on fully attentive and emotionally consistent parenting during the early years. Were we to fully grasp that fact, current social policies would surely change to support parents in that essential task — rather than, as is now the case, forcing many families to place economic goals above the needs of child-rearing.

Evidence is that the self-regulating parts of the brain can develop throughout the life cycle, depending on the appropriate input from the environment. Were schoolteachers and administrators to understand the relationship between brain development and behaviour, they would be less punitive in their approach to children with self-regulation problems, more likely to ask themselves what empathic approaches could help such children develop the brain circuits and psychological capacities needed for self-control.

And while the legal system could not excuse violent behaviours based on what PET (positron emission tomography) scans may reveal about the brain, the law could show much more understanding toward human beings whose early lives did not allow for the optimal development of brain structures needed for self-regulation.

There’s little doubt that a significant percentage of prison inhabitants have various disorders of self-regulation. Little doubt, too, that prison conditions are virtually designed to exacerbate such mental and physiological brain dysfunctions, rather than to help people gain mastery over them.

Gabor Mat, a Vancouver physician, is the author of Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Deficit Disorder.

Gender Equality and Quality of Life: A Norwegian Perspective.

Gullvg Holter, ystein ; Helge Svare & Cathrine Egeland (2009). Gender Equality and Quality of Life: A Norwegian Perspective. Oslo, The Nordic Gender Institute. http://home.online.no/~oeholter/sideb/GenderEqualityandQualityofLife2009.pdf#ID=892
Norway was recently ranked as number one in an international gender gap index (World Economic Forum). Developments in Norway are relevant for understanding how gender equality can be achieved. In order to find out more about men, women and gender equality, a representative survey was made in Norway in 2007, which was more detailed and comprehensive than earlier survey research. In this report we describe the results of the survey : the changing, uneven and partially conflicting gender equality developments among men and women today. The survey “Gender Equality and Quality of Life” (referred to as GEQL07 in this report) has a sample of 2,805 women and men, who answered a questionnaire with 350 questions and statements on gender equality in spring 2007. The response rate was 41 percent.

The study was financed by the Norwegian Ministry of Children and Equality. The work was carried out by a project team composed in co-operation between the Nordic Gender Institute (NIKK) and the Work Research Institute (WRI). The team was led by ystein Gullvg Holter, NIKK, and included Helge Svare and Cathrine Egeland, WRI. The project commenced in the autumn of 2006, with data collection conducted by TNS Gallup during April-May 2007.

The project team was supervised by a broad-based reference group. The task of the team was to design a study of men and women on men’s attitudes to and understanding of gender equality in relationships, the family, working life and society. The study should also augment the knowledge base for a future. Despite a rather moderate response rate, now quite usual in this kind of survey (and a common problem), the sample seems to be fairly representative in the main matters discussed in this report (see Method appendix). Data was collected both by post and using a questionnaire answered on the internet.

The questionnaire for the data collection was structured around eight basic areas/phases of life:
1.Childhood
2.Education
3.Work
4.Life in the household
5.Partner, choice of partner
6.Children and parents
7.Gender equality : experiences and attitudes
8.Health and quality of life

Within all these areas, questions were especially focused on gender equality issues. They were designed to highlight five different dimensions of gender equality, described below, as well as quality of life. This design made it possible not only to survey attitudes to equality, but also to study how these attitudes are connected to practices, and how attitudes and practices vary in relation to other circumstances, such as distribution of resources in married or co-habiting two-sex couples, social-psychological gender formation and gender equality in childhood and youth, in addition to ordinary background variables such as sex, age, socio-economical status and housing.

Gender research has, for a long time, focused on how men’s and women’s identities, situations in life, attitudes, etc. are constituted in mutual, dynamic interaction characterised by voiced and unvoiced negotiations and expectations, within a context of material and cultural structures which also ascribe men and women different social positions. Although, strictly speaking, starting as a follow-up of the 1988 survey of men, the new project was designed on the basis that women should be included. Therefore the study includes answers by women as well as by men, although the detail level regarding men is a bit higher.

Mobilising Men in Practice: Challenging sexual and gender-based violence in institutional settings.

2012. Mobilising Men in Practice: Challenging sexual and gender-based violence in institutional settings. Brighton, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.
Men need to be involved in reflective, in-depth discussions and comprehensive campaigns focused on ending violence against women. This report documents the work of one such effort, the Mobilising Men initiative, led by the Institute of Development Studies (University of Sussex in Britain) with support from UNFPA. Through partnerships with civil society groups in India, Kenya and Uganda beginning in 2009, th initiative trained men to be team activists in seeking gender balances. By immersing the participants in a programme of dialogue and action that challenge the inherent nature of male privileges and power structures in society; government, academia and workplace, the men learned a lot about themselves and how they can begin to address inequities.

By providing step-by-step tools, discussion topics and stories about the Mobilising Men participants, the publication acts as a guide for activists to instil change in institutions that impede women’s progress through both subtle and obvious barriers.

http://www.unfpa.org/public/home/publications/pid/10046

Politicising masculinities: beyond the personal.

Esplen, E. and A. Greig (2007). Politicising masculinities: beyond the personal. Brighton, Institute for Development Studies.
During 15-18 October 2007, a diverse mix of people came together in Dakar, Senegal, to debate issues of men, gender and power: unconventional practical academics, open-minded policymakers, reflective practitioners and activists. It was a unique gathering and offered a unique opportunity to inform and inspire a greater engagement by men in the struggle for gender justice and broader social change.

http://www.ids.ac.uk/files/dmfile/Masculinities.pdf

Child Marriage Persists in Parts of Georgia

Totally illegal, the custom has not been tackled aggressively by authorities who seem to fear treading on people’s toes.

Spanking and crime rates

Spanking and crime rates: Liebe statt Hiebe

GENDER EQUALITY: THE KEY TO ENDING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

www.ippf.org/…/violence_against_women_and_girls_-_gender_equality…/

Violence against women is caused by gender inequality ; including unequal power relations between women and men, rigid gender roles, norms and hierarchies, and ascribing women lower status in society. Promoting and achieving gender equality is a critical element of the prevention of violence against women.

Study: Jordan ‘honour killing’ support strong

20 Jun 2013 11:01 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/06/201362054127558357.html

Researchers at Cambridge University say sizeable section of teenagers interviewed found “honour killings” justified. Religious affiliation was not determinant but rather the level of education.

16 tips to change social norms for girls

Guardian Professional,

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2013/aug/20/best-bits-changing-social-norms?CMP=twt_gu

Here’s a round up of the expert advice from our live chat panel on the best strategies for changing harmful social norms for girls.

Promoting gender equality to prevent violence against women

WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data. Promoting gender equality to prevent violence against women. World Health Organization. ISBN 978 92 4 159788 3.
The relationship between gender and violence is complex. Evidence suggests, however, that gender inequalities increase the risk of violence by men against women and inhibit the ability of those affected to seek protection. There are many forms of violence against women; this briefing focuses on violence by intimate partners, the most common form. Though further research is needed, evidence shows that school, community and media interventions can promote gender equality and prevent violence against women by challenging stereotypes that give men power over women.