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State of Opportunity special: The effect of violence on kids

Jul 31, 2014

Credit Jason Rogers / flickr

We sometimes think of violence as contained in certain communities, but violence is present in the lives of an estimated 60 percent of kids.

The effects of exposure to violence on children's development are profound. Kids in some homes and communities have very high levels of exposure to violence.  

"Violence is no longer contained in the inner cities," says Geoffery Canada. Canada founded the Harlem Children's Zone, in part to keep kids safe. Canada says extended exposure to violence and the anxiety it brings makes long term decision making difficult. 

That view was backed up by Jim Henry, Director of the Children's Trauma Assessment Center at Western Michigan University. Henry says exposure to violence has measurable impacts on brain development in young children. Those impacts include a lack of executive functions, things like self control and focus. 

Canada and Henry joined State of Opportunity listeners, young people from Flint and service providers from the Manhood Project and Alternatives for Girls in Detroit with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White to talk about why violence prevention doesn't seem to a high priority in the state or the nation, and what can be done to lessen the impact of violence on children and communities.