U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Understanding the Risk Factors for Violence

NCJ Number
Pfizer Journal Volume: 11 Issue: 1 Dated: 2001 Pages: 15-24
Salvatore J. Giorgianni
Date Published
10 pages
This article provides guidance for understanding the risk factors for violence as the first step in devising public health interventions.
The risk factors for violence extend in concentric circles from the individual. Starting at the outermost circle with the culture and moving inward, the circles consist of the community, neighborhood and schools, the family, and the individual. Since most violence is learned behavior, the various concentric circles can either carry risk factors that increase the likelihood that violence will be learned or decrease that likelihood. The conditions and values of cultures create the emotional and behavioral stimuli that can lead to various types of behaviors by those under the influence of the culture. Families can be the most significant protective factor against violence or the main breeding ground for violence. The individual brings a unique biological and psychological vulnerability to stress that can lead to violent behavior. Individual biological factors that can contribute to violence include adverse prenatal experiences, maternal alcohol or substance abuse or inadequate nutrition, parental neglect, and brain injury. Individual psychological risk factors include a history of early aggression, attributing hostility to others, paranoia, limited cognitive abilities, impulsiveness, and shame. Specific risk factors include the abuse of alcohol, actual and perceived inequality of treatment, exposure to violence in the media, gang association, accessibility of weapons, and child abuse of various types. Most often violence is due to a combination of risk factors that will have varying degrees of influence in contributing to violent behavior.