Violence causes more injury and death in children,
teenagers, and young adults than infectious disease, cancer, or birth
There is no single explanation for the violence caused by
youth. Many different
things cause violent behavior in children. The more
these things are present in a child's life, the more likely he or she is to
commit an act of violence. Behavior will change depending on a child's age and
gender. Violent behavior may be targeted at parents, other children, friends, or
other family members.
Violent crimes include assault, rape, and
robbery. Most violent crimes occur
between friends or acquaintances or within families.
What are the warning signs for violent behavior?
It's important to be alert to behavior changes. People usually give hints
that they are considering violence toward other people, such as:
Talking about violence, especially violence
directed toward specific people or groups of people, such as student groups, or
places, such as schools, churches, or government
Talking, writing, or drawing about death and
Having unexplained mood changes.
intense anger or losing his or her temper every day.
Acting aggressively toward others. This may include:
Teasing or taunting others by calling them names, making fun
of them, or threatening them.
Making threatening phone
Following or stalking another person.
Damaging or vandalizing another person's
talking about a weapon, especially a firearm. Having access to a gun increases
the likelihood of teen homicide 3 times and teen suicide 5
Buying or talking about other means, such as poisons, that
could kill or harm others.
Not taking responsibility for his or her
actions or saying that the actions are justified because of how he or she has
The possibility of teen violence also increases when the
following factors are present in a teen's behavior over several weeks or
Aggressive or violent behavior
or alcohol use
Spending more time listening to music about violence or watching violent shows on TV, videos, or the internet
Gang membership or having a strong desire to become
part of a gang
Access to or a fascination with guns or other
Threatening other people
Withdrawal from friends, family, and usually pleasurable
Fear of other people (paranoia)
rejected, alone, or disrespected
Being a constant victim of
Poor school performance or attendance
problems with figures of authority
What can you do if you are worried about someone's behavior?
When you recognize warning signs of violent behavior in
someone else, there are steps you can take. Don't count on someone else to deal
with the situation. Taking action and telling someone who can help can prevent
harm to yourself and others. It also will protect another teen with potentially
violent behavior from making a mistake that will affect the rest of his or her
Don't spend time with people who show warning
signs. Tell someone you trust and respect, such as a family member, counselor,
or teacher, about your concerns and ask for help.
If you are
worried about being a victim of violence, ask someone in authority to help you.
Do not resort to violence or use a weapon
to protect yourself.
Don't try to deal with situation by yourself.
Ask for help.
Develop a safety plan to help you if you are in a
potentially dangerous situation.
How can you manage your own anger without becoming violent?
Talk to someone. Find a trusted friend or adult
to help you one-on-one if you're afraid to talk or if you can't find the right
words to describe what you're going through.
Be calm. Try to
express criticism, disappointment, anger, or displeasure without losing your
temper or fighting. Ask yourself whether your response is safe and
Listen. Try to listen and respond without getting upset
when someone tells you something you may not want to hear. Don't overreact; try
to see the other person's point of view.
Seek solutions. Work out
your problems with someone else by looking at different solutions and
How can parents help teens?
Parents can help protect
teens from violent situations in the following ways:
Be involved in your teen's
Know what your teen enjoys and how he or she spends free
Know who your teen spends his or her time with.
Explore ways your teen can avoid unsafe
situations and can avoid hanging out with troubled teens.
your teen about the effect a group can have on his or her life. Peers have a
strong impact on a teen's behavior.
Protect your teen from violent media as much as possible. Youths who watch a lot of this violence may come to believe that such behavior is okay. This can make them more likely to act violently themselves. It can also lead to nightmares, aggression, or fears of being harmed.
Discourage physical violence. Help your teen find ways to resolve
conflict without resorting to violence.
Role-play conflict. Let your teen determine
which style fits him or her best. Role-play ways to help your teen walk away
Be a positive role model. Use nonviolent ways to
resolve conflict in your home. Think about how you and your fellow parent each address conflict
with your teen. Talk together to
make sure your approaches to conflict are firm, fair, and consistent. Let your teen see you deal with a disagreement by
discussing the issue, not by physically or verbally attacking the other
person. Teens who witness violence in their home or
community are more likely to choose violent means to resolve conflict.
Remove guns and other violent weapons from
The most common victim when a teen
fires a gun in the home is the teen. The second most common victim is a teenage
Locking a gun in a separate place from
the shells may help discourage access, but it is not foolproof.
Encourage your teen to become involved in organized sports, music, or
recreational or service activities.
Participation in sports gives teens a sense
of skill mastery and contributes to a positive self-image.
part of a team is a healthy way to release energy.
and other recreational activities provide teens with good role models.
Talk to your teen about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Dating abuse is common among teens. Abuse can be verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, or physical. It can happen in person, over the computer, and over the phone. Explain that a caring partner would not do something to someone that causes fear, lowers self-esteem, or causes injury. Ask your teen to talk to you or another trusted person if he or she has concerns about abuse. Have your teen keep the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline toll-free phone number (1-866-311-9474) handy. For more information, see the topic Domestic Abuse or go to www.loveisrespect.com.
Discourage alcohol and drug use. Alcohol and drug
use are involved in over half of all violent situations among teens. Talk with
your teen about what to do if he or she is in a situation where alcohol or
drugs are being used.
Be a positive role model. All other adults in
the house and other family members can be good role models as well.
Use safety measures, such as wearing your
seat belt, whenever possible.
React to difficult situations in a
calm, relaxed manner. Avoid yelling or name-calling.
own alcohol or drug use.
Do not give your teen the idea that you
have to have a drink in order to enjoy yourself.
Never drink and
Pay attention to your teen's perceptions.
Teens who view the world as harsh, interpret harmless situations as
hostile, and view people as either victims or bullies are often more prone to
violence. If this describes your child, talk to him or her about your concerns.
Get help. Talk
with a health professional or licensed counselor if you think your teen may need help
responding to conflict.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.