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Morrison, B. (1998). On Childhood and Violence. Brit. J. Psychother., 14(4):420-428.

(1998). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 14(4):420-428

On Childhood and Violence

Blake Morrison

I suppose most people have an opinion on the subject of childhood and violence, but few people have an informed opinion. It is a bit intimidating standing here to realize that some of the people with informed opinions are probably in this room. I am not an expert and in many ways it feels a presumption to give this lecture. I think all I can do is to offer you my observations on what is, I suppose, the most notorious case of childhood violence in recent years, that of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, whose month-long trial for murder in Preston, as Ann has said, I attended four years ago this month.

I want, in effect, to tell you a story. I'm encouraged in this by noticing how often, in books of psychotherapy - those few I have read - and indeed in the British Journal of Psychotherapy, a narrative of some kind (usually a case history) is used to illustrate some theoretical point. I hope to weave in my thoughts and conclusions as I go along, but there is just one thing I would like to emphasize at the beginning. The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes

the right of every child alleged as, accused of or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth… and which takes into account the child's age and the desirability of promoting the child's reintegration and the child's assuming a constructive role in society.

Naively, perhaps, I went to that trial in Preston with some such underlying assumption of good will, imagining that all those professionally involved with the Bulger case - lawyers, social workers, teachers, police officers, journalists and psychiatrists - would want to elucidate the circumstances and the motives of that terrible crime, and would constantly have in mind the reintegration and the rehabilitation of the children involved.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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