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From Childhood to Adulthood: The Unerased Culture of Violence

By Chinelo Eze
05 June 2022   |   6:00 am
When you think of childhood memories, what comes to mind? It may be fun to remember as you look back in nostalgia. Perhaps, it’s just like hearing “That stupid Song” by Bez and smiling, or the children playing on the streets that makes your heart melt. However, not everyone has that childhood to reminisce about…
The influence of childhood memories defining adulthood

Child abuse

When you think of childhood memories, what comes to mind? It may be fun to remember as you look back in nostalgia. Perhaps, it’s just like hearing “That stupid Song” by Bez and smiling, or the children playing on the streets that makes your heart melt.

However, not everyone has that childhood to reminisce about with a smile. Some hear childhood memories and their faces become gloomy.

Nonetheless, childhood memories are not just to be smiled upon as they play a vital role in setting the tone for adulthood. Those days are shaped by internal and external factors, both in and outside the home.

“I believe children are the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside,” the late Whitney Houston sang in ‘Greatest Love of All’.

Whitney Houston’s lyrics, originally written by Linda Creed, began with the phrase “I believe,” which emphasises that children are the future and the cornerstone of what will be.

One can argue that it is the outline for parenting and could be used to describe what the responsibility of being a parent or guardian would entail.

A Catholic priest who spoke anonymously with Guardian Life points back to a significant childhood experience that has defined his path today. He said that growing up to admire the immaculate white uniforms of students in the minor seminary during the Independence match past ceremony was that defining moment as well as being in awe of the “Angelic and spotless appearance” of priests. “As a child in the house, I would act as a priest celebrating the holy mass, while my siblings would act as the altar servers and my parents would play the part of the audience.” 

Meanwhile, some others were attuned to their parents. A group of musicians who will rather remain anonymous were defined by their childhood memory of their first-ever performance. “Well, one memory that sticks out is one of our earliest performances ever. I believe we were about six years old and we had written a song about Christmas and performed it in front of our whole family. We got a standing ovation and that kinda shaped our confidence.”

As some are being shaped by parents’ actions and inactions, others are shaped by some activities that took place in the home, such as watching cartoons. Rita, a medical lab scientist, stated that watching “Dexter a Laboratory” and “Pinky and the Brain” did it for her,  “Those cartoons reinforced my interest in science.”

Many of these scenarios are some ways that other people have been inspired and shaped by who they are today as professionals in their fields or as individuals.

Psychologists say that memories of yearly infancy tend to disappear as teenage years set in, especially around the time when one begins to develop a sense of self.

So how about those adults who don’t have pleasant childhood memories to reminisce about that have also defined their character or their profession?

Tedi Babalola, talks about the downside of his childhood memories as he was bullied in school. “Being bullied affected my self-confidence because before then, I had self-confidence. However, it prepared me for how cruel people are in the world away from the school setup. But being subjected to hate for a long period shaped my thoughts and opinion about myself; though I’m working to evolve from that.”

Tedi says he began to find solace in his pain by reading fashion magazines and imitating by drawing and writing all he saw in them.

Uvie was not bullied but she remembers enjoying being in stage performances in Primary 3, and specifically in SS1 she wrote a short story that got the school talking while her English teacher use her story as a sample in other classes.

childhood memories

A-teddy-bear-on-the-ground.-Photo-Medium

Traumatic Childhood

According to a World Health Organisation report, nearly one-third of all children aged 2–4 years, or 300 million children, are subjected to physical and/or psychological violence by their parents and caregivers regularly.

In the same vein, it reports that one in every five women and one in every thirteen men report having been sexually abused as children between the ages of 0 and 17. 

In Nigeria, UNICEF records that six out of ten children are victims of violence, with one out of every four girls and one out of every ten boys sexually molested. A survey by Positive Action for Treatment Acess notes that 31.4 per cent of girls had their first sexual experience either through rape or some sort of forced sex. 

Abuse and violence range from physical abuse to emotional maltreatment, neglect, sexual abuse, and witnessing family violence, which forms the basic categories of child abuse and neglect. Hence, children who have been maltreated may feel alone, frightened, or distrusted, leading to long-term psychological consequences such as academic difficulties, low self-esteem, depression, and difficulty forming and maintaining relationships. 

Another report by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reveals that the effects of abuse and neglect have an impact on both the victims and the society in which they live. 

Olive Ogedengbe, a clinical psychologist with Friedlich Consulting, says “With survivors of childhood abuse, the symptoms vary across some have concentration difficulties and it begins to impact their academic performance. When there is the school they remember the incident accompanied with a lot of flashbacks, memory problems.” 

Ogedengbe adds that if a child was initially an agile and active child, you find the child withdrawing and becoming timid, and emotionally withdrawn. On the other side, rebellion and frequent aggressive outbursts in place of a naturally quiet child.

Such unhealthy scenes could take a psychological toll on a child that he or she re-enacts such scenarios later in life.

Research also shows that one-third of those abused turn out to be abusers themselves. Hence, the cycle of abuse festers as an abused youngster is more likely to abuse others as an adult, causing cyclic violence to be passed down from generation to generation.

“We’re creatures of patterns and habits, and if we’re not mindful, we can re-enact these over and over unconsciously,” says Elise Franklin, a psychotherapist.  

Thus, breaking the cycle of violence, and creating beneficial multigenerational effects is crucial.

Sour Relationships 

Johnny Depp says during a cross-examination in the just concluded defamation trial involving his ex-wife Amber Heard, that he suffered from extensive child abuse from his mother. The culture of child abuse that Depp endured as a child likely set the tone that culminated in the abusive relationship he had with his ex-wife, Amber Heard. 

“The verbal abuse, the psychological abuse, was almost worse than the beatings,” Depp said. The beatings were just physical pain. The physical pain, you learn to deal with. You learn to accept it. You learn to deal with it. But the psychological and emotional abuse, that’s what kind of tore us up.”

So what happens when these children are damaged psychologically in their formative years?

A 2020 review of studies documented in the Office for National Statistics in 2017, suggests that more than 51% of adults who were mistreated as children, were more likely to go through domestic abuse as adults. Like Depp, psychological characteristics such as impulsivity, low self-esteem, and a need for approval can lead to alcoholism,an example far too common with adults nurtured in abusive settings. 

The paper “How  Child Abuse Affects Adult Survivors” by a consultant psychiatrist Paul Mclaren elaborates on this. It says “Adults who have buried their history of child abuse can continue to suffer in ways that can include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, substance misuse, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, guilt, learning disabilities, physical illness, disturbing memories and dissociation.”

In understanding child abuse, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that boys externalise their abuse while girls internalise theirs.  

Carrying on the adverse effect of an abused child, the tendency to have a stable life at home and work might be a hassle. For example, a person who was sexually abused as a child may exhibit their form of abuse by being neglectful to their children, and become suicidal, self-destructive, or violent without being fully aware.

As a result, the “things” that children are taught and the path that they are shown are crucial. The adopted precepts and values absorbed automatically become the blueprint that they use to define their respective lives.

The two types of children, one from a non-abusive family with pleasant childhood recollections versus a child with a background of abuse, will have quite different perspectives on life as adults. 

This isn’t to propose that youngsters from stable households don’t stray or deviate from their parents’ expectations.

In the season 2 finale of Just of Mixed-Ish titled “Forever Young”, the show summarily ends by explaining that childhood does not last forever, but it is the defining period in one’s life that sets the tone and creates the adult that many eventually turn out to be. Hence, even though we are adults, we are still young at heart and that constantly influences every move we make.