Youth Violence: Causes, Prevention, and Impact

Learn more about what youth violence is, its impact on young people, and how to prevent it in the future.

Table of Contents

What is Youth Violence and What Causes It?

Youth violence refers to acts of violence committed by young people between the age of 10 and 24. It includes fighting, bullying, threats, sexual assault, homicide, and gang-related violence. Youth violence also includes tragedies like school shootings. This type of violence is more common than one would think. Over 1,000 young people are treated daily in emergency rooms for youth-related violence.1

There are a few different things that can cause youth to be violent. Risk factors for violent actions among young people can be found on individual, family, and community levels.2
Youth Violence

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Individual Risk Factors For Youth Violence

Violence is more likely to be committed by youth who have the following characteristics:

  • Attention deficit, hyperactivity, depression, anxiety, conduct disorders (such as oppositional defiant disorder), and other behavioral disorders
  • Early use and exposure to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Learning disabilities (especially when undiagnosed or unsupported)
  • Low levels of involvement in school as well as academic challenges
  • Being involved in crime 
  • Unemployment
  • Being exposed to violence in the family 
  • Exposure to violent media
  • Exposure to traumatic events 

Risk Factors from Close Relationships

The types of relationships that youth have with their parents and others can also be predictive of violence among young individuals. Some risk factors within close relationships include:
  • Lack of supervision or parental involvement 
  • Overly harsh, relaxed, or inconsistent parenting
  • Low levels of attachment between parents and children 
  • Parental rejection
  • Parental substance misuse or criminal activity
  • Child abuse
  • Belonging to a low-income family 
  • Unemployment in the family 
  • Associating with other juvenile delinquents 
  • Parental depression

Community Risk Factors

Violence among young people is also a community issue. Some risk factors for youth violence associated with the community and society at large include:3
  • Access to and community misuse of alcohol 
  • Access to firearms and the potential to misuse them
  • Community gang activity and drug trafficking 
  • Communities with high-income inequality
  • Insufficient safe housing 
  • High levels of poverty and unemployment 
  • The community’s response to violence (educational policies, social protection, enforcement of laws.

Youth Violence and Development

Youth violence is detrimental to development. Exposure to youth violence can lead to problems with decision-making and learning challenges. Also, violence can lead to low levels of interpersonal connection. Violence in childhood also leads to problems dealing with stress later in life. 

Violent youth often grow up to be violent adults. Additionally, adolescent violence can lead to smoking, substance use disorder, obesity, high-risk behavior, depression, dropout, and suicide.

Youth Violence Prevention Techniques

Violence in young people is preventable with the proper interventions. Signs of future violence can be seen early in development. If left unchecked, these problems can escalate as a child ages with disastrous effects. Some methods for preventing violence among young people are detailed below.4

Promoting Healthy Environments

A healthy supportive family environment is key to preventing violence among young people. A warm, caring, well-supervised family environment can reduce violent tendencies in young people. Parenting classes and family relationship programs are great ways for adults to learn how to create a supportive home.

Quality Early Education

Violence can begin early in childhood. Choosing early education, such as a quality preschool with a high level of parental involvement, can set your child up for success in the long run. Children who are enrolled in high-quality early education programs see a reduction in youth arrest and social problems as they get older.

ACE Education and Programs

Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, have been shown to have a large effect on future violence victimization and perpetration. These experiences can have long-lasting and negative effects on health, well-being, and substance usage as well. Educating families about ACEs, treating the root causes of ACEs, and working to provide supportive programs that benefit and enrich children is an imperative step in helping children get the care they need.5

Strengthening Youth’s Skills

Helping your child build behavioral, emotional, and interpersonal skills can help reduce violence as well. These skills include conflict resolution, communication, and problem-solving. Building coping skills and teaching tools for emotional regulation is also key to preventing violence.

Building Connections

Allowing young people to build connections with caring safe adults is another way to reduce violence among young people. Examples of this include mentoring programs and after-school programs.

After-school programs are helpful in preventing violence among young people as they provide supervision for youth between the hours of three and six pm. During these hours, violent and criminal activity for young people is at its peak. By putting your child in these types of programs, you can ensure that they won’t be getting in trouble.

Creating Protective Community Environments

Clean, safe community environments are crucial in violence prevention. Communities with well-defined and enforced laws can help keep violence at bay. Additionally, communities that enact policies to level out wealth inequality and provide quality housing for all see a reduction in violence among young people.

Early Intervention for Harm Reduction

Many young people who engage in violence often have behavioral problems early on as children. Early intervention can help violent children overcome their tendencies, and reduce their potential to harm others in the future.

The Impact of Youth Violence

Violence amongst young people is a community issue and impacts more than the people involved. On average, it costs 18.2 billion dollars per year in both medical and lost productivity costs. This number does not include the legal costs of prosecution, arrest, and incarceration. Outside of the financial costs, it is important to note that worldwide, violence among young people is the fourth leading cause of death for young people.6

Why is it Important to Address Youth Violence?

Today’s youth will become tomorrow’s adults. It is important to address violence early to prevent future crime and victimization. With early intervention, violent youth can be rehabilitated to work through their issues and lead productive adult lives.
Youth Violence

Healing Youth Violence with Horizon Treatment Services

Youth violence can be difficult to address on your own without proper support. If you are concerned that your child may need help with their violent tendencies, consider Horizon Treatment Services.

What We Offer

We aim to help children get the support, care, and attention they need. Children and adults alike will benefit from learning more about ACEs, youth violence, and how these two topics may be connected. Creating lasting change in the lives of young people is the purpose behind our education and prevention programs.  

Contact Horizon Treatment Services Today

Youth violence is a widespread problem, but you can be part of the solution. Call us today and help your child shift out of violence and into peace today.