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Violence and Homicide Among Youth
What's the Problem?
Violence is a public health issue because of its tremendous impact on the health and well-being of our youth. Violent injury and death disproportionately affect children, adolescents, and young adults in the United States. Youth violence is not limited to youth-on-youth violence, but may involve a youth victim and an adult perpetrator, or vice versa. Violence is a major cause of death and a leading cause of nonfatal injuries among youth.
Who's at Risk?
In the U.S., homicide is the second leading cause of death for people in the 15 to 24 year-old age group. In 2002, 5,219 young people in that group were homicide victims, an average of 14 youth homicide victims daily. Homicide is the second leading cause of death for Hispanics aged 15 to 24 years-old, and the number one cause of death for African Americans. Among Native Americans in this same age group, homicide ranks third as cause of death. Nonfatal violence is substantially higher among people ages 15 to 24 years old than for any other age group.
Can It Be Prevented?
Youth violence is a complex issue; a number of individual and social factors increase the probability of violence during adolescence and young adulthood. One of the first steps in finding solutions to youth violence as a public health problem is to identify risk factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing violence (either as a victim or a perpetrator) and protective factors (factors that reduce a person's chance of becoming a victim or perpetrator). The next important step is to design interventions or programs to address these risk factors and evaluate their effectiveness. To determine the risk for early onset of aggression among children, we need to examine family situations and problems such as delinquency, school failure, and substance abuse. Youth who exhibit good social and communication skills, who learn the basics of resolving conflicts nonviolently, and receive emotional support from parents or other adults are less likely to engage in violent behavior than youth without these advantages.
The Bottom Line
- More than one-third of homicide victims are young people.
- It is important to express intolerance for violence in one's community.
- There are a number of factors that place young people at risk for violence.
- Applying appropriate conflict resolution skills may help prevent youth violence.
- 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.
- 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.
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