Selye (as cited in Roberts & Yeager, 2009) presents stress as natural component of life. Feelings of anxiety or memories of that anxiety are what drive us to fulfill our needs. This is where stress is important to the natural development. As we develop, we face many discomforting scenarios that we learn to avoid (e.g. hunger, cold, burns, pain; and later, losses of loved ones, debt, material losses, et al.). These stressors are learned and we live life trying to avoid them for the most part, and, according to Roberts and Yeager (2009), healthy stressors exist also, such as buying a home, the birth of a child, and others.
It is when stressful situations are too overwhelming to cope with that stress becomes a problem. Overwhelming stress can lead to crisis, acute stress disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (Roberts & Yeager, 2009). The key to dealing with stress is to have a positive outlet or sense of control over the stressors.
A study by Taylor (1995) shows that increases in crime, or at least the perception of crime, in a community leads to community decline; however, as this decline manifests, community participation grows to help to stop or slow the decline. This is possibly more akin to piling trash in the corner, then realizing one day that it is time to bring it all to the dump. The stress of living in a declining community is compounding until the community member finds a healthy outlet to alleviate the stress (help with clean-up efforts) or finds a negative outlet, contributing to the decline of the community. Positive outlets within a declining community allow the community members to take responsibility, once again, for the state of their environment, and thereby, relieving the stress of living amongst a declining community.
But, what happens when a person feels no control or ability to control their environment, such as a child? Kilpatrick, Saunders, and Smith (2003) explored the impact of violence and victimization on adolescents across the nation. Unlike adults who might have more opportunity to feel safe in the face of violence and have more options to redirect the stress, children are limited in their ability to react. They have yet to learn strategic coping mechanisms required to deal with stress productively. Kilpatrick, Saunders, and Smith show that “victimization in early childhood and adolescent years is the root of many problems [, such as PTSD, substance abuse, and delinquent behavior,] later in life” (p. 1). What is unclear, however, is the proximate cause of the cyclic phenomenon of violence.
As the studies suggest, violence (within the environment) begets violence (in the individual, especially children and adolescents). As children of violence mature through their environment and as they tend toward violence, they contribute to the environment of others by fulfilling what some might deem as their destiny. This, though, is shown to be untrue in many as not only can an individual contribute negatively to an environment, but many, even those touched by violence, find means of contributing positively, even if as an outlet for the stressors of such an environment. Being a product of one’s own environment does not dismiss the notions of self-reliance and personal responsibility. These ideals are the cornerstone of social change.
Kilpatrick, D. G., Saunders, B. E., & Smith, D. W. (2003, April). Youth victimization: prevalence and implications. Retrieved from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/
Roberts, A. R. & Yeager, K. R. (2009). Pocket guide to crisis intervention. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Taylor, R. B. (1995). The impact of crime on communities. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 539(1), 28-45. doi:10.1177/0002716295539001003