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Violence and Homicide Among Youth

What's the Problem?

Violence is a significant public health issue because of its tremendous impact on the health and well-being of our youth. Violence disproportionately affects youth. For instance, the homicide rate among adolescents and young adults is higher than any other age group. Young people can be harmed by violence when they are the perpetrator, the victim, or a witness. Some forms of youth violence—such as bullying, slapping, or hitting—can cause more emotional harm than physical harm. Others, such as robbery and assault (with or without weapons), can lead to serious injury or even death.

Who's at Risk?

In the U.S., youth violence is a leading cause of injury and death for young people aged 15 to 24 years. Nonfatal and fatal violence are substantially higher among young people than any other age group. In 2011, more than 612,000 youth were treated in U.S. emergency departments because of physical assault-related injuries. In 2010, 4,678 young people were homicide victims. This translates into every day 13 young people in this country are murdered and an additional 1,600 visit our hospitals for non-fatal injuries. Homicide is the number one cause of death for African American youth, the second leading cause of death for Hispanic youth, and the third leading cause of death for American Indian/Alaska Native youth.

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Every member of a neighborhood is harmed by youth violence. Violence increases health care costs, decreases property values, disrupts social services, and threatens the viability of businesses. Violence or fear of violence can cause people to spend less time outdoors being physically active and reduces participation in activities that support healthy living and a vibrant community. Youth violence costs the United States over $17.5 billion in medical care and lost productivity each year.

Can It Be Prevented?

Youth violence is preventable. Comprehensive strategies that address the multiple individual, family, and neighborhood risks for violence can lead to community-wide and long-lasting reductions. Effective prevention strategies include school-based programs that build students’ communications skills to solve problems in non-violent ways. Family approaches that help parents and caregivers set age-appropriate rules and effectively monitor activities and relationships are also effective. Furthermore, economic, policy, environmental, and other community approaches can enhance safety and increase opportunities for positive social interaction.

The Bottom Line

  • More than one-third of homicide victims are young people.
  • Every day, on average, 13 young people in this country are murdered and an additional 1,600 visit our hospitals for non-fatal violence-related injuries.
  • Youth violence is not inevitable. It is preventable.
  • There is not one single factor, in isolation that places young people at risk for violence—their characteristics and experiences, their relationships with friends and family, and the characteristics of the community all play a role.
  • Youth violence can be prevented when young people use non-violent conflict resolution skills, when families set age-appropriate rules and effectively monitor children’s activities and relationships, and when communities enhance safety and increase opportunities for positive social interaction.

Case Examples

  1. The school day has just ended and students are waiting for the school bus. David, known as a bully to many of his classmates, pushes John because he would not give him answers to the homework earlier that day. David hints that there is a weapon in his backpack and he will use it, if necessary. Bystanders taunt and urge John to retaliate. John is obviously frustrated. Instead of reacting to David, as everyone thought he would, he runs to report the incident to the principal's office.
  2. Groups of teenagers are playing baseball at a neighborhood park. Paul disputes the referee's decision concerning a foul ball. In a violent rage, Paul attacks the referee, severely injuring his left arm and chest. Paul's coach and several team members rush to the field to stop the altercation. Emergency service is called. Paul is detained and brought up on assault charges.
  • Page last reviewed: February 22, 2011
  • Page last updated: August 1, 2013
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