Youth violence is a serious issue that affects the entire world, with over 176,000 homicides occurring every year among people 15 to 29 years old. It’s not enough, however, to respond to violence; the goal is to prevent violence in the first place. The only way to do that is to understand why youth violence happens. In this article, we will focus on what causes of youth violence.
What Is Youth Violence?
Youth violence refers to violence that people between 10 and 29 years of age commit. It’s the intentional use of power or physical force to harm or threaten others, and it can include gang-related activity, violence with a weapon, sexual assault, fighting, and bullying.
This serious public health issue affects countless people all over the world. It doesn’t just impact the families of the victims or the perpetrators but the communities that surround them as well.
5 Causes of Youth Violence
Youth violence causes can vary. In many cases, a combination of factors leads to the development of various types of youth violence.
1. Mental Health Issues
A child or teenager with untreated mental health concerns can pose a danger to themselves and others. They may struggle to manage their emotions and not be able to de-escalate confrontations, leading to violence.
Trauma is a serious issue that increases the risk of perpetrating violence, with youths who suffer from PTSD being unable to process what they feel in a healthy way, making lashing out more likely.
2. Child Abuse and Domestic Violence
Child abuse and domestic violence can significantly impact young people by creating a cycle of aggression and trauma. When children witness or experience domestic violence, they may internalize violent behaviors as coping mechanisms, perpetuating a pattern of aggression in their own lives. When children witness or experience domestic violence, they may internalize violent behaviors as coping mechanisms, perpetuating a pattern of aggression in their own lives. The modeling of violent behavior, coupled with the emotional and psychological impact of abuse, increases the risk of these individuals engaging in youth violence as they may struggle with impulse control, low self-esteem, and disrupted attachment patterns.
Children who have suffered abuse are also more likely to perform poorly in school, which can lead to negative interactions with teachers and other authorities. This can quickly cause a feeling of isolation for the child that only worsens the way they see the world around them. All of these factors can lead them to lash out.
3. Drug and Alcohol Use
Another potential cause of youth violence is substance use. Drug and alcohol use affects the brain’s structure, which is a huge problem in children and teenagers. Their brains are still developing, and the areas that substance use affects are the ones that impact impulse control, judgment, emotions, and motivation.
A teenager who uses alcohol or drugs will be less able to manage moods and emotions, making self-regulation more difficult. This can lead to outbursts of anger and impulsive actions that put them and those around them at risk.
4. Neighborhood and Surroundings
A child’s environment helps to define their behavior. If they live with daily experiences of violence, stress, and hardships, the risk that they’ll engage in negative and violent behaviors grows. In fact, seeing violence in the home increases a child’s chance of becoming violent by 40%.
A negative environment also puts a child in contact with peer groups that exert negative peer pressure. This leads to a higher risk of engaging in violence and criminal activity.
5. Low Level of Parental Supervision
Children who lack sufficient parental supervision don’t have the right foundation on which to develop healthy social behaviors. They may not know what’s expected of them or not understand why their behavior is problematic.
Other Risk Factors of Youth Violence
Other risks and causes of youth violence include behavioral issues like ADHD and hyperactivity, which can create tension between students and teachers, as well as other authority figures. A low level of attachment between parents and children is another contributing factor since a child in this situation will not have the support they need to develop emotionally.
Low family income could be considered another factor because it contributes to a stressful family environment, as do parental mental health concerns and substance abuse.
Youth Violence Prevention Strategies
Preventing youth violence depends in great part on a combination of strategies that have to be implemented in the home, school, and community.
In the Home
It all begins in the home, where the child has to feel safe. Parents should engage with their children, creating a supportive environment that allows them to ask for help if they need it. Calmly addressing problems teaches children to do the same, helping them learn self-regulation skills.
In the Community
Programs should be in place in the community at large to help with mental health concerns. Youth programs need to target at-risk children, offering that same sense of community so that they don’t feel they’re on their own.
Counseling should be available in schools, and students should have an incentive to turn to counselors for help. Teachers and administrators can also aid by increasing positive interactions with students, which boosts self-esteem and builds a sense of community. If a child feels like part of a group, they are less likely to act out against it.
Rachel’s Challenge Can Help
At Rachel’s Challenge, we focus on building connections. We know that people who are isolated are much more likely to lash out and struggle with their emotions, so our programs are here to help everyone find their voice and feel recognized and valued.
Rachel’s Challenge exists in honor of Rachel Scott, who died in the Columbine High School shooting. The positive impact she had on those around her inspired us to keep her spirit of love and positivity alive. By showing how even the smallest of kind actions have a rippling effect that leads to more positive actions, we strive to honor her memory and name by helping entire communities.