Universiteit Leiden

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Violence Studies

About this minor

This minor will focus on interpersonal violence (i.e. violence taking place between individuals), the most common types including physical violence and sexual violence.

Urban riots, violent responses by police, drug-related assassinations, child abuse, bar fights: Violence is a core theme in todays modern society. The study of violence is relevant not only because of the impact on primary victims, but also because the resulting ripple effect goes far beyond the initial act, and can create a climate of fear and insecurity. This minor will focus on interpersonal violence (i.e. violence taking place between individuals), the most common types including physical violence and sexual violence. Even though violence stemming from armed conflict receives considerable attention from the international community, interpersonal violence accounts for far more victims than those attributable to, for example, war or terrorism. In this minor programme we study the origins, correlates, mechanisms, social contexts, and resilience after experiencing violence. We delve deeper into the ways in which we can both prevent as well as respond to acts of violence.

What will you learn?

n this minor programme, students will become familiar with the nature and scope of violence; the ways in which it impacts public order, and the ways in which society can respond to and, ultimately, prevent violence. Furthermore, the programme contains courses that address specific forms of violence, ranging from domestic violence (child abuse and neglect, intimate partner violence), lethal violence (drug-related homicide and firearm-related homicide), and the impact of violence on individuals, communities, and society at large. Using criminological, sociological, historical, public health, neurobiological and psychological perspectives, this minor programme provides students with an in-depth understanding on this multifaceted phenomenon.

The minor is taught by leading experts in the field. In addition, the minor includes guest lecturers who work in the field of violence studies. As scientific researchers and experts working in government, public health and criminal justice organizations, they will put theoretical notions into practical perspective.


This course is part of the minor Violence Studies, which falls under the interdisciplinary programme Social Resilience and Security. This is an interdisciplinary minor, and as such it is suitable for students from a variety of social science disciplines, including security studies, law, criminology, psychology, and related subjects. This course is only available to those following the full minor. If you want to take part in the minor but are unsure whether it suits your background, please contact the coordinator (contact information below).

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Why do some parents abuse their children? What makes teenage gang members act out aggressively against others? What drives people to murder others? Is it nurture, or nature that ultimately determines such violent behaviors?

This course will explore the complex neurobiology of violence, and take a whirlwind tour of the multifaceted factors and mechanisms that underlie interpersonal violence. We will discuss the role of the brain one second before a violent act is committed, and how this is shaped by neurobiological mechanisms that were formed in the preceding months and years. 

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This course focuses on collective forms of violence, that is, violence involving groups. Group violence is an issue that we come across again and again in current affairs, ranging from gang violence, to riots and hate crimes. Given its destructive nature, people often find collective violence difficult to understand. Why would a person join a violent group? How do groups that are normally non-violent become involved in violence?

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The Covid-19 pandemic illustrates the importance of our ability to cope well with stressors, our ability to show resilience. Resilience denotes the ability of an organism to adapt to changing environments and cope with environmental challenges by shifting within its normal operating range. Resilience in humans refers to our ability to positively adapt following a stressor. Resilience arises from complex interactions of factors that reside within the body (e.g. the hormonal systems, the brain, genetic influences) as well as outside the body (e.g. family support, teaching environment, cultural resources).

In this course we will discuss the historical background of resilience, whilst discussing key studies and experiences (such as the COVID Pandemic) and their effects on the effects on children and young people. We will introduce the various definitions used to describe resilience, and how they have evolved over time in the past 50 years. We will then discuss why some children and young people who experience trauma or stress show resilience, whereas others do not. 

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