KINGSTON, Jamaica – A survey on the impact of violence on children in Jamaica has found that 80 per cent of them had witnessed five to eight murders or had known five to eight murder victims.
The research done by Dr. Claudette Crawford-Brown, lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work at the University of the West Indies, examined 115 children, drawn from two primary schools, over a period of two years. All of the children were from communities with a history of violence.
The survey also revealed that approximately 10 per cent of the sample had witnessed fewer than four murders, while the remaining 10 per cent had witnessed nine or more murders.
“In one case a child reported that he had witnessed ‘plenty plenty more than nine, Miss, but not as much as 20’,” said Dr. Crawford-Brown, in a UWI report titled: ‘Research for Development’.
Dr. Crawford-Brown noted that, in a majority of the cases investigated, the children had been exposed to multiple types of traumatic incidents involving gun warfare and/or violent injury.
According to Dr. Crawford-Brown, given the nature of the trauma that the children experienced, it was surprising that only a small proportion of the sample interviewed, exhibited symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other disorders usually associated with exposure to that level of violence.
“This suggests that there were specific adaptive (or maladaptive – “The Ah Nuh Nutten Syndrome”) responses that the children had developed as coping mechanisms which requires further investigation,” said Dr. Crawford Brown.
In investigating the “Ah Nuh Nutten Syndrome”, the researcher developed a model to explain the range of reactions that are displayed by Jamaican children and adolescents, as a result of the various forms of violence they experience.
“The survey results suggest these reactions include, but are not confined to, forms of reactive depression which are similar to those which gave rise to various names previously assigned to inner-city urban Jamaican gangs, such as the Nah live fi Nutten Crew, which links back to older names which emerged out of the 1970s such as the The Born Fi Dead Posse,” the report said.
Dr. Crawford-Brown noted that the findings suggest that, if these children continue to grow up without intervention, the society may be producing a set of children who are at risk of developing, or have already developed a pervasive sense of hopelessness and an almost trivialised sense of death and dying.
“This is manifested by the mind-set of criminalised youth who espouse the “Mek a Duppy Syndrome” when referring to the act of killing someone,” she said.