Violence and Disengagement from Violence in Young Men's Lives

Researchers: Professor Stephen Tomsen, Professor David Gadd
Funding: Australian Research Council (opens in a new window), Discovery Project
Period: 2012-2014
» Fact sheet (opens in a new window)(PDF, 83KB)

This project will study the significance of victimisation, perpetration and the watching of violence and images of violence, among young Australian men. It will explore the underlying links with masculine identity and have practical applications for developing an understanding of the unknown aspects of disengagement from involvements in violence.

A close-up photo of a young man's hand pulling a knife out of his pocket.

Professor Stephen Tomsen is the Chief Investigator on this innovative project examining male violence, non-violence and masculine identity. Professor David Gadd of the University of Manchester and Adjunct Professor at ICS, is his international partner investigator. This project is funded by the Australian Research Council through the Discovery Projects grant scheme.

'Extensive male violence is a problematic but still poorly understood social and cultural phenomenon', explains Professor Tomsen. 'Male aggression and violence are increasingly being recognised as a social burden and there are higher related levels of criminal conviction and incarceration of men in both juvenile and adult prisons. Yet we must ask why do some men engage in violence and develop violent masculine identities while others don't? Previous research has treated different forms of male violence as separate and related to specific psychological problems. The reality is that these forms of violence overlap and their widespread occurrence indicates broader social issues. This research will examine the interconnected nature of forms of male violence.'

Violence and aggression are common themes in cultural representations of masculinity. However, the degree to which men internalise and actually reproduce this public and private behaviour depends on the socioeconomic, cultural and personal conditions within their lives. This project will illuminate in detail what effect these conditions have and under what circumstances they are active. In particular, there is a compelling criminological and practical need to explain masculine withdrawal from conflict and violence and its relation to various complementary and rival ways that masculinity is pursued.

Utilising focus groups and deep analytic interviews as a methodology that has not yet been deployed in Australian studies of crime and violence, the project will detail the experience and understandings of violence among young men to integrate a new theoretical model of chosen engagement or disengagement from masculine violence as an individual and collective psychosocial practice.

The results of this project will inform policies and social and welfare programs aimed at the prevention of violence.