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Book and Media Reviews
October 22 2008

School Violence and Primary Prevention

JAMA. 2008;300(16):1943-1950. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.522

Like most edited works on complicated issues, editor Thomas Miller's School Violence and Primary Prevention is a bit uneven in quality. Nevertheless, it is well worth reading and suggests a variety of appropriate lenses through which to view this vexing phenomenon.

The star of this show is the chapter by French, “The Neurobiology of Violence and Victimization,” which neatly summarizes a vast array of information from the perspectives of neuroanatomy, behavioral genetics, and developmental psychology. French introduces readers to the consequences of victimization and their likely effects on later violent behavior, reminding that to truly understand the meaning of violence in individuals’ lives, one must understand them as both victims and victimizers. Readers will find the explanation of the interdependent, bidirectional role of gene-environment interactions to be fascinating and informative. French does not shrink from the moral dilemmas posed by understanding these pathways to violence, arguing against early identification of children at risk for violence because interventions that can be assuredly beneficent are lacking.