Mapping the field: How are the links between violence and learning understood in the Australian context? Academic Article uri icon


  • For many children in Australia, violence is a daily part of their lives. The extent to which children who live with violence subsequently experience failure in the school system means that educators need to better understand the links between violence and learning. Multiple reports and papers looking into a range of social issues including Indigenous disadvantage, violence in schools, and family and domestic violence, conclude with recommendations that focus on the need for improvements in education. Explicit in what is written in the field is the assumption that the presence of violence in people’s lives and their failure in the education system are somehow linked, though the precise links that are implied take a variety of forms. This paper uses the Australian context as a case study to explore the three most common discourses on violence and learning. First, it looks at some of the recent literature on the psychological effects of violence on children’s learning. Second, it provides an overview of some the socio-cultural perspectives on violence on learning, and third, it summarises some of the literature on how schools may hinder or help children who are victims of violence. An overview of these three positions exposes both what we know about the links between violence and learning, and where there are gaps in that knowledge. It is hoped that this preliminary mapping of the field contributes to the ways schools might better address the needs of children and youth who navigate the education system under difficult, often traumatic conditions. Because it is regularly noted that women and girls are more likely to experience family violence (Carrington, 2006; UNICEF Australia, 2006; Sokoloff & Dupont, 2005), educators should become familiar with the impact of family abuse on the experience of girls in and out of their classrooms.

publication date

  • 2008