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Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action

""Research and experience in communities show it is possible to prevent youth violence. Everyone has an important role in stopping youth violence before it starts. CDC's Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action [PDF 2.3MB] and its companion guide, Taking Action to Prevent Youth Violence [PDF 1.7MB], provide information and action steps to help each of us be a part of the solution.

What are Your Opportunities for Action?

Action 1. Enhance the skills and experiences of individual youth.

Action 2. Use and promote youth violence prevention strategies that are based on evidence to benefit the entire community.

Action 3. Help communities build their capacity to prevent youth violence.

Action 4. Continue innovative research to address gaps.

Action 5. Reduce the risk for violence and promote the strengths of young people.

Action 6. Make choices that promote safety and opportunities to thrive.

Action 7. Help others be violence-free.

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What Actions can You Take Today?

  • Community leaders and members,
  • public health professionals,
  • adults who care for or work with youth, and
  • young people,

can take action today to reduce youth violence. There are relatively easy steps we can each take to make a difference and help prevent youth violence.  

Check out the steps for each of the audience types above by downloading the companion guide, Taking Action to Prevent Youth Violence [PDF 1.7MB].

And remember, you might fall under more than one category.

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What are the Youth Violence Prevention Approaches with the Best Available Evidence?

Most communities need to identify a range of approaches and implement several specific activities in order to achieve local prevention goals.  Some examples are presented below, but it is by no means a comprehensive list of evidence-based approaches or an endorsement of any specific program, policy, or practice.

Rather, the information is offered to help provide a sense of available evidence-based approaches and activities communities can select from and implement. More information about the specific programs, policies, and practices listed as examples can be found online through CDC's STRYVE Strategy Selector Tool. This resource provides information about other programs, policies, and practices that have also been found to help prevent youth violence. Please keep in mind that the selection of specific programs, policies, and practices depends on the needs and resources of your community.

Universal School-based Youth Violence Prevention Approaches

Provide students and school staff with information about violence, change how youth think and feel about violence, and teach nonviolent skills to resolve disputes.

An example is Life Skills Training (LST) which teaches anger management and conflict resolution. Evaluations of this program have shown significant reductions in fighting and delinquency, including a 26% reduction in high frequency fighting within one year.

Other evidence-based universal school-based programs include: Good Behavior Game, Positive Action, Project Towards No Drug Abuse, and Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies.

Parenting Skill and Family Relationship Approaches

Provide caregivers with support and teach communication, problem-solving, monitoring, and behavior management skills.

An example is the Strengthening Families program. The program teaches parents to use discipline, mange their emotions, and communicate with their child and teaches youth strategies to deal with peer pressure, manage stress, and solve problems. Evaluations of this program have shown significant reductions in aggression, hostility, and conduct problems and improvements in parent’s limit-setting and parent-child communication.

Other examples of evidence-based parenting and family programs include: the Incredible Years, Triple P (Positive Parenting Program), and Guiding Good Choices.

Intensive Family-focused Approaches

Provide therapeutic services to high-risk, chronic youth offenders and their families to address individual, family, school, and community factors that contribute to violence and delinquency.

An example is Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care. This approach is for youth who need out-of-home placements and includes extensive training of foster parents, family therapy for biological parents, skills training and support for youth, and school-based academic and behavioral supports. This program has been shown to significantly reduce delinquency, violence, and violent crime and sustain improvements over time.

Other examples of evidence-based intensive approaches for high-risk youth include: Multisystemic Therapy and Functional Family Therapy.

Policy, Environmental and Structural Approaches

Involve changes to community environments that can enhance safety and affect youth violence and youth violence risk and or protective factors.

An example is Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) which are public-private partnerships that collect resources from businesses and invest in local services and activities. Significant reductions in violence have been documented in BID neighborhoods.

Other examples include: policies to reduce youth access to alcohol and changes in the physical environment using principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

Street Outreach and Community Mobilization

Connects trained staff with at-risk youth and to conduct conflict mediation, make service referrals, and change beliefs about the acceptability of violence.

An example is Cure Violence (formally known as CeaseFire). This approach works to interrupt violence, particularly shootings, and change norms about the acceptability and inevitability of violence. An evaluation found reduced shootings and killings and fewer retaliatory killings in most communities where the approach was implemented.

Other examples include: Richmond Comprehensive Homicide Initiative, Operation Ceasefire, and Safe Streets (a replication of CeaseFire).

Early Childhood Home Visitation

Provides information, caregiver support, and training about child health, development, and care to families in their homes.

An example is the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP). This approach provides training and support to mothers during pregnancy and two years after giving birth to support a healthy pregnancy and increase mothers' knowledge and skills about child development and care. It has shown to decrease risk factors for youth violence, such as child maltreatment and early behavior problems, and reduce adolescent arrests and delinquency.

Another example includes: Triple P (Positive Parenting Program).

Early Childhood Education

Provides high-quality, early childhood education to disadvantaged children to build a strong foundation for future learning and healthy development.

An example is the Highscope Preschool Project (formerly known as Highscope Perry Preschool Project). This project provides small classroom instruction by staff trained to address the needs of disadvantaged children and their families. Evaluations have found beneficial outcomes, including better academic achievement and classroom behavior and lower delinquency and lifetime arrests for violent crimes.

Other examples include: Early Risers Skills for Success and Raising Healthy Children Program.

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What is Youth Violence?

The general term "Youth Violence" is used to describe when youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years intentionally use physical force or power to threaten or harm other people. Youth violence can take different forms. Examples include fights, bullying, threats with weapons, and gang-related violence. Youth violence typically involves young people hurting other youth.

All communities and all young people are affected by youth violence. Specific types of youth violence vary across locations and groups, but no place or person is immune. Youth can face violence from their peers in their neighborhoods, on the streets, online, and at their schools. Regardless of where youth violence happens, the consequences are felt by everyone—young victims, their friends, families, neighbors, schools, communities, and local organizations.

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How Does Youth Violence Harm All of Us?

Youth violence jeopardizes the future strength and growth of all our communities. It harms the physical, mental, and economic health of all residents. The negative impact of youth violence is felt by families, schools, emergency departments, and entire neighborhoods.

We are losing our young community members at an alarming rate.

Homicide is the third leading cause of death for youth aged 10-24 years and every day 13 young people are victims of homicide.

For more information, download the full report, Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action [PDF 2.3MB].

We are experiencing more problems that have to be solved.

Nearly 600,000 young people were treated in emergency departments for injuries from physical assault in 2012. These young victims could fill every seat in nine football stadiums.

For more information, download the full report, Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action [PDF 2.3MB].

Nine stadiums

We are struggling to develop a workforce.

Sad youth looking out window 7% of high school students did not go to school in the past month because of safety concerns.

For more information, download the full report, Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action [PDF 2.3MB].

We are making tough choices about how to use limited resources.

Scale of JusticeThe cost of youth violence on medical care and lost work alone exceed $17.5 billion each year. When communities need to direct resources to arresting, prosecuting, incarcerating, and rehabilitating youth violence offenders and addressing the needs of victims and witnesses, fewer resources are available for other priority areas, such as schools, community infrastructure, and business development.

If we implemented effective youth violence prevention approaches, we could save several dollars for every dollar spent on prevention.

For more information, download the full report, Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action [PDF 2.3MB].

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