Youth violence includes harmful behaviors that are either physical or emotional. It encompasses everything from hitting and bullying to serious injury and death. Youth violence is such a problem in the United States that it is the second leading cause of death for individuals between 15 and 24.
- In 2011, over 707,000 youth aged 10 to 24 years were treated in U.S. emergency departments for physical assault injuries. That is an average of 1,938 a day.
- The same study reported that 5% of high school students reported taking a weapon to school in the 30 day period before the survey.
- 20% of high school students reported that they had been bullied on school property and 16% were cyberbullied.
Every year, assault related injuries and homicides result in $16 billion in combined work loss and medical costs. It is clear that youth violence can also lead to an increase in health care costs, decrease in property value and cause disruption among local social services.
Who Is At Risk?
There are a number of factors that can increase a teen’s risk for violence; however, not all youth with these factors will become offenders. Some of these are:
- Drug, alcohol or tobacco use
- Delinquent social group
- Stressful home life
- Poverty in the community
- Prior history of violence
Experts believe that intervention at a young age is critical. It is estimated that many violent behaviors are solidified in the earliest years, with victims of abuse at the highest risk to become violent themselves. Training parents of young children has proven to be the most successful of widespread intervention options throughout the country. Multiple programs have been implemented that work to change the trajectory of families at risk by teaching parents different strategies and parenting skills such as:
- Helping young children learn
- Setting effective limits
- Handling misbehavior
- Preparing children for the school experience
- Access to community resources
- Use of healthy praise and encouragement
By helping parents learn how to anticipate and solve problems, they can take the lead on preventing and managing behavioral issues in their children before they become teens. The programs for younger children center around healthy parent-child interaction.
There are also community programs in place for parents of teens who are already displaying violent behavior. Between therapy and outreach options, parents can learn skills they need to help their teen turn his life around and become a healthier and happier individual. In some cases, parents are unable to provide the intensive help that their teen needs in order to recover. In such cases, residential treatment centers offer full time options for helping teens learn to cope with their violent tendencies in a more effective way.