youth violence is in the news people ask “Why did this happen?”
or “What can be done to keep it from happening again?”
Research is providing a clearer understanding of the root causes of
youth violence and practical knowledge about which prevention approaches
work and why. Most experts agree that:
Violence is learned and can be unlearned.
are part of the collective solution to violence prevention
is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive, multifaceted
and collaboration are more effective at violence prevention than
isolated individual efforts.
studies indicate that no single factor or unique situation causes
an individual to engage in violent behavior. In recent years “The
Ecological Framework” has been developed to describe the network
of individual, family, community, and environmental factors that determine
outcomes for children. The framework shows the environmental, community,
family, and individual factors that affect children’s development
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has identified
poverty, media exposure to violence, and adult disregard and mistrust
of young people as the primary environmental factors that contribute
violent youth behavior. The most powerful environmental factors that
prevent violent youth behavior are the recognition of youth as a valuable
resource and youth working with adults in meaningful activities.
of drugs and firearms; communities with high crime rates, gang activity,
poor housing, and lack of services; and poor quality educational and
recreational opportunities are the community level factors that make
violent youth behavior more likely. Improvement of these factors makes
violent behavior less likely for the youth in the community.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have found that
youth who do not have consistent, positive interaction with parents
or other responsible adults are more likely to develop violent behavior.
In addition, abuse or neglect, and exposure to high levels of marital
and family conflict makes violent youth behavior more likely. Youth
who have friends, siblings or other close relatives who are involved
in violent behavior are also at higher risk.
contrast, youth are less likely to be involved in violent behavior:
they have frequent, in-depth communication with all members of their
If they have consistent interaction with successful, non-kin adults
their parents set and maintain clear boundaries for behavior
their parents use reasonable, consistent discipline
is important to be cautious when looking at individual factors that
may contribute to violent behavior so youth are not labeled. However,
aggression, problems with concentration, excessive risk taking, and
restlessness that are not appropriate for age or stage of development
can be indicators that the child may be at greater risk developing
violent behavior. In addition, youth with diagnosed depression or
who have poor school achievement are at greater risk for development
of violent behavior.
behavior is less likely for young person who has grown up in a community,
family, and environment that has helped them develop these characteristics:
sense of purpose and belief in a positive future
A belief that education and learning are important
ability to act independently
sense of control over her environment
ability to adapt and be flexible
sense of empathy and caring for others
ability to solve problems
ability to seek out support when needed
resolution and critical thinking skills.
will be most successful when they are involved not only in the family
level of violence prevention but also at the community and environmental
level. Active participation in school activities is one way parents
can help shape community and environmental experiences for their child.
Youth and adults working together to solve problems is another powerful
way to reduce the risk for violent behavior. In addition, parents
who set and maintain clear boundaries for behavior and use reasonable,
consistent discipline provide additional protection for their children
as they grow up.