by LAURA STARECHESKI
Rowell Huesmann, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, has spent his career trying to figure out what makes some people violent. Much of his research points to childhood experiences.
“Children are great imitators,” Huesmann says. Children who grow up with physical abuse and domestic violence are learning that “this is a way you deal with other people when you want to make them bend to your will,” he says. “You hit them.”
Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings running back recently indicted by a grand jury on a child abuse charge for his method of disciplining his son, says his own father whipped him as a child. Peterson even chose the same instrument his father used to discipline him: a switch cut from a tree.
No NFL training can change what players experienced as children. But that sort of education can address the biggest risk factor for committing acts of violence: having committed such an act before. Researchers say it’s much easier to be violent if you’re getting a message that violence is acceptable. The NFL has, at least indirectly, and until very recently, been sending that message for decades.
It doesn’t just reach players, says Jackson Katz, a violence prevention educator. It trickles down to fans — even the youngest ones.