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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.

  • Serve as a mentor, tutor, or volunteer at schools and youth-serving organizations to support the healthy development of all young people.
  • Provide meaningful and appropriate opportunities through businesses and social/civic groups for youth to develop their interests, skills, and talents.
  • Praise good behavior and take immediate action to stop youth violence when it occurs.

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

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

  • Support local action by joining or starting a youth violence prevention coalition that works across groups and sectors.
  • Make prevention a community priority.
  • Insist on the use of data to make decisions and put in place evidence-based approaches.
  • Use a comprehensive set of approaches to support and strengthen youth, families, schools, and communities.
  • Seek out and use existing resources to learn about effective youth violence prevention activities and programs.
  • Share progress and successes to raise awareness that youth violence is a preventable public health problem.

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

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

  • Actively disseminate the latest information about what works.
  • Join with partners to strategically plan and support widespread implementation of evidence-based youth violence prevention approaches.
  • Expand and enhance data systems on youth violence and risk/protective factors and improve data integration and dissemination.
  • Establish and maintain dedicated youth violence prevention staff.
  • Enhance public health leadership for youth violence prevention.

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

Action 4. Continue innovative research to address gaps.

  • Continue research about factors that protect youth, families, and neighborhoods from violence.
  • Rigorously evaluate promising youth violence prevention strategies.
  • Study ways to strengthen communities’ ability to implement youth violence prevention strategies well.

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

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

  • Be a consistent model for how to respond nonviolently to conflict, stress, and fear.
  • Pay attention when youth behave well and help them see the benefits that come from their good choices.
  • Build a connection with young people that allows them to feel comfortable discussing violence and related concerns.
  • Carefully monitor youth’s activities and behavior, help youth make safe choices, and talk with others who have a strong influence on young people.
  • Prevent minors from getting unsupervised access to firearms at home, from family, and from friends.
  • Take advantage of help and share information and resources with others.

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

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

  • Stop and think before saying or doing anything that could hurt others, act in nonviolent ways, and get help from a trusted adult or safe place.
  • Spend time with people and in places that are at low risk for violence.

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

Action 7. Help others be violence-free.

  • Help others be violence-free, and support those who have been hurt by violence.
  • Show others how to stay safe.
  • Get involved in violence prevention work.

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

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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 type of community member mentioned above by downloading the 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, manage 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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