What is Making My Teen Violent?

When children enter the adolescent years, they begin to experience higher levels of anger and frustration as they transition into adulthood and a greater sense of independence. While arguments, eye rolling, shouting and door slamming are fairly normal, some teens take their anger a step further and become aggressive and violent with family members and others. While it can be difficult to admit that your teen has a violence problem, it is important to try to determine what may be driving it, so you can help him fix it. While researchers admit that there is not usually one single cause for teen violence, they have identified some risk factors that contribute to the problem.

What Are The Causes Of Youth Violence?

  • Abuse – According to the CDC, a violent or abusive family situation may contribute to teen violence. Because children absorb and reflect what they see, witnessing aggression in the home may increase the risk of similar behavior. The National Center for Children Exposed to Violence determined that domestically abusive situations lead to impairments in cognitive and emotional development in children, which then puts them more at risk for aggressive tendencies.
  • Social and Media – Extensive studies have identified a link between violent television shows, video games and teen learning. Interactive video games that encourage players to commit simulated violent acts, not only blur the lines between violent behavior and consequences, but actually reward aggression. Video games and other violent media also impair a teen’s ability to distinguish reality from fantasy.
  • Mental Health – Violent behavior can sometimes be attributed to an underlying mental disorder such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), which manifests in defiance, aggression and consistent hostility toward authority figures. While actual diagnosis needs to be left to a mental health professional, early detection and intervention will help give your teen the best opportunity to develop the skills he needs to transition into a healthy adulthood.
  • Social Influence – Teens may become violent and aggressive as a result of negative social influence. This can include anything from friends that encourage and idealize violence to an emotional response to being bullied. Determining means that you must be aware of who your teen’s friends are and how he is spending his time. Keeping the lines of communication open with your teen can help you figure out whether he is reacting from peer abuse.

Because these risk factors may or may not apply to your teen, it is important you understand that handling the violence that your teen is displaying may not be as simple as turning off the television or having a talk. Knowing what many of the risk factors are can help you eliminate them in order to help guide your teen toward the help he needs in order to get his anger under control. If you feel unsafe or your teen doesn’t seem to be responding to anything you try, it may be best to consult a therapist or mental health professional that can help you determine what is the best option to help your teen turn his life around.  

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