Youth Violence

Youth violence has been a serious problem for many countries over the past decades as teenagers have become more aggressive and incidents have resulted in more serious consequences. Children increasingly have access to guns and knives with many high schools bringing in security measures to detect weapons. Although the peak of juvenile crime was seen in the 1990s the number of adolescent offenders remains alarmingly high in the United States and other countries.

According to official statistics, the most common crimes that teenagers get involved in are assault, homicide, rape and weapons law violations. The Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), which monitors and reports on youth crime rates, claimed that the total number of criminal offenses is decreasing. In 2008, there were 6, 318 juveniles between 10-17 arrested per 100, 000, which is the lowest figure since 1980.

Figures are also falling in arrests for homicide (3 per 100,000), rape (10 per 100, 000), aggravated assault (170 per 100, 000), weapons law violation (120 per 100, 000) and disorderly conduct (580 per 100, 000). In fact, juvenile arrest rates have remained relatively unchanged excluding the cases of assault, where numbers have been steadily growing since 1980, peaking to nearly 800 per 100, 000 in 1998 and slightly falling afterwards, reaching 700 per 100, 000 in 2008.

According to a survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2007, nearly 6 percent of children carried a weapon on school premises, the ratio of boys to girls being 3:1. Almost 8 percent of these children reported having been threatened or injured with a weapon at least once and over 12 percent had been involved in a fight at least once for the current school year. It is estimated that rates are slightly higher due to the fact that teenagers involved in violence are unlikely to report taking part in such incidents.

There have been many studies into what causes aggressive behavior in adolescents. The most frequently stated causes are TV and video/computer games depicting violence, family or personality problems and substance abuse. It can be argued that it is difficult to evaluate the impact of each of these factors on teenage behavior because aggression is usually triggered by a combination of factors.

A difficult home environment, which may include domestic violence, parental alcoholism or exposure to guns, is a major influencing factor on whether a teenager will get involved in violence. Other influences such as peer pressure also account for teenagers joining street gangs, which provides adolescents with a sense of identity and belonging. Poverty, race and the neighborhood environment are also believed to influence aggressive conduct.

Television violence and video and computer games have often been blamed for provoking aggressive behavior in children, especially in preschoolers who cannot easily separate reality from fiction. Psychiatrists argue that exposure to violent TV shows may result in children losing their sensitivity to violent acts and becoming "immune" to them. They may go on to subconsciously identify with the aggressors or victims and start to imitate the violent acts they observe.

Childcare experts advise parents to carefully choose TV programs for their children and to limit the time they spend watching television to a few hours a week. However, software producers claim that there is no direct co-relation between violence and playing computer games, putting forward the argument that crime rates have been falling, whereas computer games sales have been increasing. Moreover, they argue that games are sold worldwide and yet, youth violence is virtually non-existent in some countries.

Prevention is a crucial concept in reducing crime rates. According to CDC, prevention should take place in four different levels: society as a whole, school, family and the individual. On the first level, society could cope with the problem by reducing the level of violence on TV, reforming educational systems and providing more organizations for support and work with potentially aggressive adolescents. In relation to the school, CDC suggests close student supervision, classes for anger management and classroom management techniques. Prevention in the family should focus on improving the communication between children and parents, building trust and eliminating the common problem of children acting in totally different ways at home and in school. The last level of prevention centers on the individual and could include therapy, counseling and conflict resolution programs.

Youth Violence: Selected full-text books and articles

Youth Aggression and Violence: A Psychological Approach By Thomas G. Moeller Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
School Violence in Context: Culture, Neighborhood, Family, School, and Gender By Rami Benbenishty; Ron Avi Astor Oxford University Press, 2005
Violence in Schools: Issues, Consequences, and Expressions By Kathy Sexton-Radek; Robert Schleser Praeger, 2005
Youth Violence and Positive Psychology: Research Potential through Integration By Tweed, Roger G.; Bhatt, Gira; Dooley, Stephen; Spindler, Andrea; Douglas, Kevin S.; Viljoen, Jodi L Canadian Psychology, Vol. 52, No. 2, May 2011
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Empowering Peers to Prevent Youth Violence By Hazler, Richard J.; Carney, Jolynn V Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development, Vol. 41, No. 2, Fall 2002
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Psychology of Good and Evil: Why Children, Adults, and Groups Help and Harm Others By Ervin Staub Cambridge University Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 13 "Cultural-Societal Roots of Violence: Youth Violence"
Youth Gangs and Youth Violence: Charting the Key Dimensions By White, Rob; Mason, Ron Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Vol. 39, No. 1, April 2006
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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