Strengthening healthy resistance and courage in children: A gender-based strategy for preventing youth violence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beginning with the distinction between core consciousness or a core sense of self and a self that is wedded to a story about itself, this paper suggests that we have collectively been wedded to a false story about ourselves, a story that the core self resists. The gender disparity with respect to times in development when children's resilience is at heightened risk highlights the costs of an initiation that occurs for boys in early childhood and for girls at adolescence. Because of this difference in the timing, girls can become informants about a process of psychic splitting and dissociation that impedes the relational capacities of children and opens the way to violence. The articulateness of girls' resistance to losses that are psychologically and socially consequential illuminates a resistance in boys that may otherwise be overlooked. Evidence drawn from studies of girls' development leads to the suggestion that by joining a healthy resistance in children, we can act to prevent youth violence. The paper ends with a case study of a suicidal adolescent girl to illustrate how a relational framework shifts the interpretation of violent behavior and informs a strategy of response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-140
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Gender
  • Initiation
  • Self
  • Youth violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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