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Youth Violence

Youth violence is becoming more prevalent. What do statistics say about youth violence? What factors increase the risk of teen violence? What can parents do to protect children from violence? This article will review these questions about youth violence.


Youth violence is violence between adolescents or teens, including fighting, threatening, and bullying. Teen violence is becoming a more serious problem, involving more troubled teens and leading to more teen deaths. In many cases, there are things parents can do to help troubled teens avoid youth violence.

Victims and perpetrators of teen violence are more often male than female, but all teenagers can be at risk. Teen violence ending in homicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents and teenagers. An average of fifteen young people are killed every day, usually with firearms, and 750,000 young people are treated in emergency rooms for violence-related injuries each year. A recent CDC study of high school students found that 33 percent had been in a physical fight in the last year and 17 percent reported that they had taken a weapon to school in the previous 30 days. 15 to 25 percent of youth experience bullying each year.

Some factors that increase the chances that a troubled teen will be involved in teen violence are: 

  • Involvement in gangs or fighting 
  • Low parental involvement 
  • Discipline that is inconsistent, lax, or too harsh 
  • Use of drugs or alcohol by teen or parents 
  • A history of violence in the home
  • Emotional problems/lack of self-control 
  • Injuring animals or people 
  • Lack of involvement in positive extracurricular activities 
  • Exposure to media violence 
  • Lack of economic opportunities in community/low income 
  • Poor performance in school, especially due to learning disorders

These risk factors are not what causes teen violence, but they often put teens in situations where they are more likely to be victims or offenders. Teens who are the victims of youth violence may have physical symptoms of violence such as injuries or torn clothing, or may become depressed, anxious, or withdrawn. Parents should talk to their teens if they see any of these symptoms.

Some things that parents can do to protect their children from violence include: 

  • Talk to your teen, and listen - show caring and concern
  • Know where teens go, what they do, and who they're with 
  • Include teens in family activities, and be home during at least one of these times: when your teen wakes up, when he or she comes home from school, at dinner time, or when your teen goes to bed 
  • Be consistent and firm - but not harsh - in your discipline 
  • Discourage involvement with gangs, including wearing gang-related clothing and making or drawing gang signs - talk to local police to find out more about gangs in your area 
  • If applicable, help your teen or other family members get help for drug or alcohol problems 
  • Encourage positive activities, such as extracurricular school or church involvement 
  • Teach the importance of a good education 
  • Monitor and control your teen's exposure to violence in the media, including television, movies, video games, music, etc. 
  • Get involved in your community and your child's school; talk to school administrators about violence or bullying that occurs at school. 
  • Set a good example of non-violent ways to resolve conflicts

If your teen has been the victim of teen violence or bullying, seek counseling for him or her. School counselors or local health clinics may offer free counseling.

If you think your troubled teen is involved in teen violence, it is important to talk to him or her. To help a violent teen

  • Get him or her counseling from a qualified professional; if there are issues of violence or abuse in your family, get family counseling as well. 
  • Remove guns and other weapons from your home 
  • Limit access to violent media or influences 
  • Talk to local police and school counselors for additional ideas on preventing teen violence.

Youth Violence Sources:

  • Center for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, "Youth Violence, Facts" [online]
  • National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center [online]
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Stop Bullying Now! [online]
  • U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Homicide trends in the U.S." [online]
  • Center for Disease Control, "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report," June 18, 1993 [online]

Related Article: Teen Violence and Homicide >>

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