Worldwide, an average of 42% of boys and 30% of girls have been exposed to bullying. Bullying and other types of youth violence have a significant impact on the lives of those who experience it, putting them at higher risk of mental health concerns, substance abuse, and much more.
The effects of youth violence are not limited to those who live through it, however. They also extend to those who witness it and to the community at large. But exactly what are the long-term effects of youth violence?
What Is Youth Violence? Understanding the Problem
- Bullying (online and offline)
- Physical fighting
- Sexual assault
- Gang-related violence
Youth violence occurs everywhere, including in schools, neighborhoods, and even homes. It’s a matter of public health because it impacts young people’s mental well-being and social skills, crippling future relationships before they even begin.
What Causes Youth Violence?
Many risk factors contribute to the development of the behavioral issues that lead to youth violence. In many instances, there is a combination of factors.
Mental Health Issues
Mental health concerns are a common cause of youth violence. Youths who live with mental health disorders often experience negative interactions with teachers and peers, as well as with family members, leading to a feeling of isolation. High school students with mental health concerns are also more likely to drop out, further isolating them from their peers.
Child Abuse and Domestic Violence
Child abuse and domestic violence can put a child at risk of perpetrating or experiencing youth violence. Children can experience many types of abuse in their homes, schools, and among peers, including neglect, sexual abuse, and corporal punishment.
Experiencing violence at home in turn leads the child to struggle with internalizing and externalizing behavioral problems. This often causes them to engage in antisocial behavior toward others and form relationships with others who have antisocial tendencies.
Drug and Alcohol Use
Another cause of youth violence is the use of drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol have a powerful effect on the brain, especially that of children and teens, leading to cognitive dysfunction.
This reduces a child’s ability to process incoming information and assess risk while at the same time encouraging impulsivity. These factors combine to create a person who may not respond predictably to stress or confrontation, leading to violence.
Neighborhood and Surroundings
The environment in which a child lives also impacts their risk of encountering or perpetrating violence. Their surroundings could contribute to their learned behavior. It’s possible that if they grow up seeing aggressive behavior, they could consider it normal and expected. The child may not know how to process their emotions or express themselves.
Low Amount of Parental Supervision
The amount of parental supervision also plays a role in youth violence. Poor parental supervision increases the chances of a child participating in offending behaviors when they reach their teenage years. Children lacking emotional self-control can be more emotionally unstable as they get older, increasing their potential to engage in criminal behaviors.
Long-Term Effects of Youth Violence
Youth violence causes many immediate effects as well, including injuries, emotional issues, anxiety, and more. Some of the most concerning effects of youth violence, however, are the long-term issues that can develop.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a condition that can start after you experience a traumatic event. Being the victim or witness of youth violence can lead to PTSD that lasts for years. In some instances, being exposed to the kind of trauma that causes PTSD may also increase a child’s chances of being the perpetrator of violence, especially among boys.
Experiencing trauma early in life makes it more likely that a child could turn to substance use in middle adolescence. Trauma overwhelms the body’s stress response system, leading to powerful symptoms that the child may seek to decrease by turning to drugs or alcohol.
Because the brain is still not fully developed, the use of drugs and alcohol leads to structural changes in the brain. These changes can make the development of a substance abuse disorder much more likely.
Risk of Perpetrating Domestic Violence
Another troubling effect of youth violence is the propensity of children who’ve experienced it to incite violence themselves. If abuse and trauma surround a child during their formative years, they could mimic what they’ve seen. They may not learn how to manage their emotions in healthy ways, potentially leading to dysfunctional relationships and domestic violence.
Youth Violence Prevention Strategies
Finding the right strategies to prevent youth violence requires the help of the various environments and figures in the child’s life. From home to the community at large, there needs to be a strategy in place.
It’s important to address negative family dynamics. Parents are the models for their children. As such, seeing them engage in conversations to resolve conflict instead of screaming or turning to physical violence shows them how to manage their emotions.
Reinforcing positive behavior is even more crucial than punishing negative behavior. A child with higher self-esteem is less likely to engage in violent behaviors.
School environments are particularly impactful on children’s behavior. Teachers and administrators should do their best to build a safe environment for students. This would allow students to feel more comfortable reaching out for help if they’re dealing with bullying or struggling with emotions. Increasing positive interactions with children and encouraging them to be kind to one another are the two best ways to do this.
In the community, youth violence prevention strategies involve the development of safety nets that can catch domestic abuse, bullying, and violence from gang activity that threatens children. It also includes creating outreach programs that encourage open communication and offer accessible help for those who need it.
Choose Rachel’s Challenge
Rachel’s Challenge is a series of live and digital programs that offer guidance on the causes of youth violence as well as what the school can do to help children at risk. By coming into your school or community, we can help you start building a positive environment that benefits everyone.
By turning to Rachel’s Challenge, your school or community can start building an environment of acceptance that allows all of its members to feel recognized and valued. This helps children build emotional resilience and find a healthy path to the future. Schedule an event with Rachel’s Challenge today or donate to our cause to help us create a safer future.