Youth Aggression and Violence: A Psychological Approach

Youth Aggression and Violence: A Psychological Approach

Youth Aggression and Violence: A Psychological Approach

Youth Aggression and Violence: A Psychological Approach


The rash of school shootings in the late 1990s has generated a tremendous amount of public concern about youth aggression and violence. But students, trainees, and professionals who work with children and adolescents have had no concise or systematic survey of our current knowledge about causes and effective approaches to intervention and prevention on which to draw. Youth Aggression and Violence has filled the void. Comprehensive and readable, it: * utilizes theory and research from the developmental psychology of "normal" children and adolescents, as well as material on "abnormal" forms of development, such as disruptive behavior disorders and juvenile delinquency; * situates youthful aggression and violence within the overall framework of children's moral development; * integrates quantitative research with carefully considered qualitative research and case studies; * discusses the genetic and biological underpinnings of youthful aggression, as well as family and social factors related to antisocial behavior; * emphasizes cognitive, motivational, and emotional processes involved in youth aggression and violence; * provides in-depth coverage of juvenile killers and school violence; * examines female aggression and violence in a variety of contexts; and * critically examines a number of questions frequently discussed in conjunction with youth violence, such as media violence, firearm accessibility, and the relationship between self-esteem and aggression.


The idea for this book first came to me in the mid-1990s while I was developing an undergraduate psychology course on youth aggression and violence. As a developmental psychologist, I was familiar with theory and research on moral development and aggression in “normal” children. At the same time, I also knew that research in developmental psychopathology had produced a large body of information on clinical manifestations of youthful antisocial behavior and violence. However, I could find no one book that integrated these two bodies of information. This book attempts to fill that void and draws on research from the fields of sociology, criminology, and history as well.

Two major goals guided me in writing. The first was to provide readers with information based on methodologically sound empirical research. Because I also wanted readers to understand the continuity of research, I have mentioned many older “classical” studies along with more recent ones. In addition, I have acknowledged the global nature of youth violence by including studies conducted by researchers from around the world.

The second goal was to help make the subject of youth aggression “come alive” for the reader. To this end, I have described carefully considered qualitative and descriptive research along with quantitative work, and have provided numerous “real life” examples of youthful aggression and violence. And finally, I have included some brief case studies as well as quotations from aggressive youngsters themselves.


A summer faculty development grant and a semester's sabbatical leave provided me with an initial block of time with which to begin this project in earnest. My thanks to Mary Washington College for this opportunity and to my department chairperson, Steve Hampton, for his assistance in this regard. I would also like to thank the staff of the Simpson Library for their help; in particular, Carla Bailey attended to my interlibrary loan requests with professionalism, efficiency, and good cheer. In addition, I would like to thank my colleague, Roy Smith, for sharing information with me regarding the genetics and biology of behavior.

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